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Mental health has been transformed over recent decades. A significant shift in attitudes alongside greater knowledge and acceptance of mental health means more people are willing to talk about their experiences and seek support.

This shift is necessary with around one in three people in Scotland estimated to be affected by mental illness in any one year, and the mental health implications of the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic being felt by individuals and communities across the world.

Against this backdrop, the recent Mental Health Awareness Week (18 – 24 May 2020) was particularly poignant this year; helping drive conversations on mental health and kindness to create lasting change.

At SHIL it also enabled pause and reflection on mental health innovation.

Over recent years, SHIL has been involved in the Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWS) – a scale of 14 positively worded items for assessing a population's mental wellbeing. It was developed by the Universities of Warwick, Edinburgh and Leeds with support from NHS Health Scotland, and since 2008 has been used to measure mental wellbeing in the Scottish Health Survey. It is also used in a range of healthcare settings in addition to education, community and voluntary sectors.

The role of SHIL has largely been to advise and assist on the legalities of commercialising the scales, as it is rolled out beyond non-commercial organisations; ensuring NHS Health Scotland is fairly represented in terms of intellectual property split and revenue return.

Robert Rea, Innovation Manager at SHIL comments: “We have worked with The University of Warwick, supporting NHS Health Scotland on commercialisation of the Warwick Edinburgh Mental Health Scale; but given the significant developments in mental healthcare, moving beyond our professional support services - IP, regulatory, funding – and exploring how we can better support innovation in mental health is valuable. New or different, successful and cost effective ways of delivering better mental health care and support should be encouraged and those working in the field are often best placed to come up with these ideas.”

The Scottish Government guiding ambition for mental health is ‘that we must prevent and treat mental health problems with the same commitment, passion and drive as we do with physical health problems.

With a successful track record of developing innovative products and services to improve patient care, SHIL welcomes new ideas and approaches to support effective mental healthcare. Growing digital innovation projects are evident in Scotland, for example:

  • EMPOWER is an innovative research project which aims to develop and evaluate an app for use with adults who experience psychosis
  • Mental Health’s Clinical Collaboration Suite (MH-CCS) is being developed by the Digital Health and Care Institute to be deployed in NHS Scotland – this advanced software database system, incorporates a suite of applications for systematically managing clinical and patient data. It has been specifically adapted for mental health, allowing patients to self-manage their care; and by visualising a more holistic patient picture, allows clinicians to deliver better collaborative and holistic care

However, Robert Rea adds: “It is great to see digital innovation in mental health, I would also highlight that innovation doesn’t necessarily mean technological or digital development. We have seen great success at SHIL via simple devices and training aids, so would encourage health and social care professionals to think broadly and get in touch with ideas.”

Our SHIL COVID-19 Innovation fund remains open, and ideas to improve mental health care are encouraged. Whilst we do not underestimate the pressures health and social care staff are under right now; we also do not underestimate the ability to adapt, innovate and use their insight and expertise to come up with ideas and solutions to support the fight. We thank everyone playing an essential role contributing to the national response to COVID-19.

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