Groups offer support to those affected by poor mental health and suicide
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Holyrood Notebook by Rhoda Grant
There are many community groups in Caithness who help those experiencing mental health problems and I know that there is still concern about the number of suicides in the Highlands, especially during the pandemic.
So, it was good to hear that another organisation, the James Support Group, formed by family and friends after the death of 28-year-old James Mullery, was expanding to Thurso.
My contact with NHS Highland and mental health groups operating in the area has thrown up many problems, including where to seek face-to-face help, the travelling distances to centralised services, the shortage of psychiatrists and the need for a permanent place of safety for patients in an emergency.
The health authority is keen to try to iron out problems, but it faces an uphill struggle with lack of funding from the Scottish Government, particularly in the field of adult mental health.
The James Support Group was initially started because James’s family and friends struggled to find meaningful help to come to terms with a young family man from the Black Isle ending his life.
Last year it succeeded in becoming a charity and could then offer support to others, including monthly support groups, personal sessions and a helpline, and there is a list of other supportive organisations on the website.
The grief and ‘what ifs’ that the families left behind must feel cannot be underestimated and it is hard for those who haven’t suffered such a tragic death to comprehend what it is like.
Good luck to all involved.
Right to Food Bill – consultation out again
Readers may remember that I was disappointed when my Right to Food Bill was dealt a blow in October when it wasn’t allowed to progress in the Scottish Parliament without a second consultation with the public.
It was the parliament’s equalities, human rights and civil justice committee which voted 4-3 to stop the Bill moving forward without a reconsultation.
However, I’m now able to launch that consultation again and would like people and organisations to take part. As well as interested constituents, those who attend food banks and groups who operate food-based charities are more than welcome to submit their views.
I’m determined to have the right to food enshrined in Scots Law, to help the tens of thousands of people in Scotland who are living in food poverty, even as we approach 2022.
Under international obligations we all have a right to food. Despite this, Scotland’s dependence on food banks and other sources of free food is growing. The pandemic has only exacerbated this, making the need for action more urgent.
My former MSP colleague and friend, Elaine Smith, initially consulted on enshrining a right to food into Scottish law and on creating an organisation, independent of government, to oversee its implementation. The proposal attracted a great deal of support and as Elaine stood down from parliament at last year’s election, I picked up the baton.
Since the summer I have met community groups, charities and organisations which have an interest in the right to food, to get a better idea from specialists about the key issues.
The passing of this Bill would mean that the Scottish Government would have responsibility for ensuring that food is available, accessible and adequate for everyone.
More information on how to respond to the consultation is on my website.
- Rhoda Grant is a Labour MSP for the Highlands and Islands.