Jim Hulme is the convener of this lively and well attended forum underpinned by Support in Mind Scotland. It includes charities from all over Scotland.

Those of us who live in the remoter parts of Scotland, either on the mainland or the islands, have the benefits of majestic views, space and a gentler pace of life. With this comes isolation and the difficulties that distance from the Central belt can bring, including access to help when it’s needed.  Rural people want access to preventative support – to be better connected – and to have services that are better designed for their situation.

The Rural Mental Health Forum is a strong network of rural people and stakeholders driving change. Their mission is to enable rural people to be open about their mental health; create solid evidence for what works to improve people’s lives; develop a program to influence policy-makers to channel resources in ways that bring positive change through a network of rural organisations across Scotland.

My first experience of this forum was a recent seminar which included an introduction to forensic mental health and the very poor provision in Rural Scotland and what this means to people and their families. Also, on that day was my first look at the Scottish satellite industry and space programme – (we are a small country but have a big space presence!) The Forum was informed how satellite imaging can be used with terrestrial data to help map areas of need. They can predict isolation using information on public transport links, green spaces and service provision and then use imaging to pinpoint areas that may have been missed using more conventional means. They are also using housing data, fuel type and heat imaging to see where cold houses and fuel poverty may have been missed.

Rural Scotland has different needs, and the solutions have to reflect that. Approaches that work well in urban areas don’t take account of the unique challenges experienced in rural areas. Forums such as this enable rural communities to address these challenges collectively, supporting solutions to emerge direct from the community.  We are now more connected via virtual meetings and this forum is making sure that the distanced voice of mental health is being heard.

I contacted Jim to ask him what he felt was the role of the forum was and he said;

“The National Rural Mental Health Forum has grown in strength and in its four years of existence has grown its membership organisations to 183 members. That membership has an outreach of around 500,000 people in rural Scotland and the Forum is playing a vital role in tackling mental health and wellbeing in our communities, by raising awareness, tackling stigma, furthering research, informing policy and sharing best practice. The Coronavirus crisis has increased pressures on our communities’ mental health and also the ability to meet face-to-face, the Forum has grasped the opportunity to use online methods of reaching out and has had over 1,000 registered attendees in the last year at their series of seminars. Check out their seminars here to see past presentations and seminars to come. www.ruralwellbeing.org/upcoming-events “Jim Hulme Support in Mind

This is an important forum giving a rural community the chance to be heard and their perspective seen rather than guessed.  You can find out more at https://ruralwellbeing.org/