Highlands and Islands Labour MSPs, Rhoda Grant and David Stewart, are backing a new project to tackle mental ill health in rural Scotland.

The ‘Well Connected Communities’ project is promoted by the mental health charity Support in Mind Scotland and the National Rural Mental Health Forum.

The project team will engage with five identified areas (Ayrshire, Dumfries and Galloway, Outer Hebrides, West Lothian and Argyll and the Islands) to explore the potential for a community development approach to enhance harder-to-reach people’s mental wellbeing in fragile rural communities, enabling their engagement in meaningful economic activity.  It will run in the Western Isles for a period of four months initially.

A survey by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and Support in Mind Scotland provided insight into living with mental ill health in rural Scotland, and what communities can do to help.  Support in Mind Scotland will work with the “hard to reach” including workless and/or lone parent households, homeless people, and those experiencing other forms of disadvantage or inequality.

Four Community Workers will work in various rural areas including the Western Isles and Argyll and Bute in the Highlands and Islands region.

Commenting on the new project, National Rural Mental Health Forum Convener, Jim Hume stated, “In rural Scotland we know that accessing services to tackle mental health can be a real issue.  Support in Mind Scotland’s new project “Well Connected Communities” is a community development approach to enhance harder-to-reach people’s mental wellbeing in fragile rural communities.  The project will help us to understand what makes communities supportive and help us to build pre-crisis connections which we know enhance quality of life and wellbeing.”

The project aims to create an in-depth understanding of a “supportive” community, creating place-based “maps” of partnerships and pathways.  This will form the basis of a second bid to test approaches identified by communities. What’s learnt from this project will feed into the Mental Health Strategy 2017-2027, plus Strategies and Action Plans around loneliness, isolation and suicide.

Commenting, Rhoda Grant said “Accessing services to tackle mental health is very much needed in all areas but it is often extremely difficult to access such services in our more rural areas.  In rural areas people often work or live in isolation and this can prove to be very lonely for someone with mental health issues.  Any support for people in this situation is greatly needed and welcomed.”

David Stewart said “Mental health issues affect many people, from all walks of life.  Encouraging dialogue on this is essential, particularly in rural and remote areas.  I fully support this project and hope it goes from strength to strength.”

The Western Isles Community Development worker is former Councillor Donnie Steele from South Uist.  He said “The group hope to provide answers to rural loneliness, isolation and social exclusion and I look forward to working with SiMS and partners to make a real difference to the way we treat mental health in rural Scotland and in particular the Outer Hebrides.”

He continued “The centralisation of services needs to be addressed, as the removal of services is having a detrimental/devastating effect on individuals and communities across the Isles.”

Donnie Steele can be contacted by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.