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"You make the difference – but what does it really mean?"

by Alison McLaughlin, Volunteering and Community Engagement Adviser for Barnardo’s Scotland

1st June 2017

This Volunteers’ Week (1-7 June), Barnardo’s Scotland is joining the hundreds of other charities taking the opportunity to thank volunteers and remind them that “you make the difference”.

“You make such a difference”, “join us in making a difference”, “they made a big difference”…phrases I use so often that I fear they’re losing their meaning. So let me try to break it down, give it something tangible for us to grasp, give it back its identity. Because you really do make the difference and that needs to be known, understood, recognised and celebrated.

Why, you ask.

Because 12-year-old Jack had crippling panic attacks whenever he was away from his mum or sisters until Sandra dedicated hours to showing him he could play and enjoy activities with others.

Because Emma proved to be a consistent person in Tammy’s life and a listening ear when she was taken into care due to her mother’s mental health issues.

Because Ryan, 16, visibly shook with nerves, couldn’t look people in the eye and refused to work on the till until fellow shop volunteer John stood by his side continuously, sat with him during panic attacks and gave him the confidence to believe in himself.

Because Barnardo’s employs 750 staff to support 26,500 vulnerable children and young people in Scotland – and 2,650 volunteers without whom we and thousands of other charities couldn’t function.

So to all our amazing, selfless and dedicated volunteers – you make the difference and we thank you for that.

And to everyone else, remember that anyone can make a difference - you can make a difference.

We believe in children and we believe in you.

*Please note all names have been changed to protect identities

For more information on volunteering in our shops, services or events, please visit www.barnardos.org.uk/get_involved/volunteering or contact scotland-volunteering@barnardos.org.uk.


"Mental Health Strategy should be one part of a National priority"

by Kirsten Hogg, Head of Policy for Barnardo’s Scotland

11th May 2017

Mental Health Awareness Week (8-14 May 2017) should be used as a way of getting out a positive and hopeful message on the importance of mental health and the theme this year of ‘thriving not just surviving’ does just that. There is little doubt that there is much greater awareness of the importance of mental health to overall wellbeing and recent campaigns have focussed on ensuring that mental health is taken as seriously as physical health.

In this context, it was surprising that the Scottish Government’s Mental Health strategy as it applies to children and young people fell short of what campaigners and others hoped it would be.

A 10 year strategy is a chance to take an approach that could be transformational, to set out a vision of the way the world could be and what we all want to see to improve the mental health and wellbeing of our children and young people. It should also be built on where we are now, what progress has been made since the last strategy and a chance to learn from mistakes.

The Minister for Mental Health has pointed out that this is a starting point and that we need to build on what the strategy contains. Of course no strategy can provide all the answers to what is a growing problem among children and young people. All the evidence points to an increase in difficulties such as anxiety and depression amongst our children and young people and specialist mental health services - despite their best efforts - are struggling to cope. Our experience of working with thousands of children and young people bears this out.

That is why we believe that we need to be bolder. The Minister is right. The strategy is a start, but it should not be seen in isolation. Children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing should be designated as a national priority.

By sending out such a message we as a country would be saying that all parts of society need to take children and young people’s mental health seriously. It would mean looking at how we fund and commission services; how we gather and use evidence on what works (and what doesn’t); how services in the public sector and third sector work together; the role of the early years and the importance of attachment; the crucial role our schools play in promoting and maintaining good mental health; and what happens when things go wrong.

National Priority status would focus the minds of policy and decision makers, services and commissioners and allow us to be much more ambitious in what we want for children and young people. Crucially children and young people themselves would have a significant role in advising and shaping the future of services and support.

We think this is the level of ambition that Scotland needs to aim for and in Mental Health Awareness Week we can’t think of a more positive message than that.

Kirsten Hogg is Head of Policy at Barnardo’s Scotland: kirsten.hogg@barnardos.org.uk.

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