Shelley Southon: Get to work on mental wellbeing

People who are unemployed have poorer physical and mental health overall
People who are unemployed have poorer physical and mental health overall
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An estimated one in three people in Scotland experienced mental ill health in the past year – that’s around 150,000 in Edinburgh alone. Worryingly, three-quarters of those people are not currently accessing primary or secondary support to address their illnesses.

The stigma attached to mental illness is partly responsible. However, in recent years attitudes towards mental health have drastically changed for the better. We’re gradually beginning to see mental wellbeing as it should be viewed – as an important facet of our overall health which should be looked after.

Shelley Southon is head of community mental health, wellbeing and work at Shaw Trust

Shelley Southon is head of community mental health, wellbeing and work at Shaw Trust

The proportion of young people experiencing anxiety and other stress-related conditions is on the rise and as a result, we’ve seen a spike in the total number of mental ill health cases. Major contributing factors such as health, unemployment and debt play a significant role in allowing mental ill health to manifest.

Numerous studies have shown the close link between mental ill health and unemployment; demonstrating how one feeds off the other. People who are unemployed have poorer physical and mental health overall, consult their GP more, are more likely to be admitted to hospital and have higher death rates. Employment actually improves mental health by increasing self-esteem, confidence and sense of identity. A lack of employment, resulting in mental ill health, therefore creates a significant barrier for those affected individuals to get back into work in the first place.

That’s why at Shaw Trust we have invested in our new Wellbeing Works Campus in Duddingston – the first of its kind in Scotland. Wellbeing Works recognises the link between mental health and employment, and aims to bring together a full range of support services to help people look after their wellbeing and move into work.

Open to everyone in the local community, the campus offers free support to encourage wellbeing activities such as art therapy, exercise classes and reading groups. Wellbeing Works provides a one-stop-shop for all of these services in an informal and friendly environment.

However, we need volunteers from the local community to help our customers at the campus. You can donate time in one of two ways: either by helping run a range of wellbeing group classes – from yoga to knitting to film clubs – or by spending time with visitors on a one-to-one basis to help them find the right activities which could be in our campus, or their local area. If you have a hobby or passion you can share with others, or a good listening ear, great communication skills and understanding of wellbeing, we want to hear from you. Not only will you be helping other people in your community to improve their health, volunteering your time is also proven to improve your own wellbeing.

Shaw Trust has made a commitment to opening up access to services that improve people’s mental wellbeing in the communities we work in. Together, we can create a community-led, fun and vibrant campus that not only improves the mental and physical wellbeing of those who visit, but also their prospects of meaningful, rewarding employment. Anyone who wants to find out more or to volunteer can find out more information on our website at www.shaw-trust.org.uk/Scotland.

Shelley Southon is head of community mental health, wellbeing and work at Shaw Trust, which recently opened its flagship Wellbeing Works Campus in Duddingston