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100 years not out for SAMH

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History pre-dates the NHS

SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health) is kicking off its centenary year with a celebration in Paisley, home of the organisation’s founder, as it calls on people across the country to stand up for mental health.

The charity, which pre-dates the NHS, is marking 100 years of supporting Scotland’s mental health by hosting 100 colleagues and supporters at the historic Paisley Abbey today.

Guests will hear directly from people who have benefitted from SAMH services and celebrate the charity’s achievements with contributions from staff and its ambassador Sir Chris Hoy.

SAMH traces its roots back to 1923 and the pioneering work of Dr Kate Fraser CBE, a Scottish psychiatrist who, at a time when women were expected to remain in the home and mentally ill people were routinely shut away in workhouses or prisons, dedicated her life to improving the conditions and treatment of people with mental health problems.

The charity has since grown to employ around 550 staff and operate more than 70 services in communities across Scotland, spanning employment, horticulture, supported accommodation, peer support, suicide prevention and more.

In 2022, SAMH supported almost 25,000 people with their mental health and wellbeing.

SAMH is also encouraging people across Scotland to join its centenary celebrations and make this the year to do something for Scotland’s mental health. Its centenary hub has suggestions from hosting get togethers and participating in fundraisers to joining the campaign for better mental health and making time for your own wellbeing.

Today’s celebration is the first in a packed year of engagements and events to recognise SAMH’s history and look to the future priorities for Scotland’s mental health and wellbeing.

Echoing some of the charity’s earliest work in de-stigmatising the conversation around mental health, SAMH will host two public lectures focused on key strategic priorities this year with the first, dedicated to suicide prevention, taking place in May.

Billy Watson, chief executive of SAMH, said: “We are so proud that for 100 years SAMH has been here for Scotland’s mental health. With heartfelt thanks for the enduring contribution from colleagues, campaigners, fundraisers, partners and supporters, we can celebrate this milestone and use it as a catalyst to make our mental health a national priority and drive further positive change.

“Thankfully, society has come a long way since SAMH first formed all those years ago – but there is so much left to do. The primary focus in our centenary year, outlined in our We Won’t Wait strategy, is on transformational change to help people and communities access the support they need, the first time they ask. A century on, SAMH keeps Dr Fraser’s vision alive every day and we will continue to play our part in supporting the mental health of the nation.”

Steve, 55, from Falkirk, attends SAMH’s The Changing Room, a men’s mental health programme run in partnership with SPFL Trust and local football clubs. The service supported Steve after his mental health deteriorated and he started to contemplate suicide.

He said: “I was in such a dark place, a place I thought I couldn’t return from. A friend let me know about The Changing Room and it’s a miracle really. If that hadn’t happened I really don’t know where I’d be now.

"Me and the lads from The Changing Room chat about everything, even laugh about it. Five years ago that would have been so embarrassing for me but the last two years, since I started going to that group, have been the best time of my life. That’s the difference these services can make.”



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