Three children in every Scottish classroom will have experienced a mental health problem by the time they turn 16. Chloe Livey, Campaigns Officer for Scotland’s mental health charity SAMH , argues that time spent together and staying connected is a vital part of improving the wellbeing of families and young people.

When it comes to our mental health and wellbeing, families can have a huge role to play. They’re often the first to notice a change, and the ones who help each other through any issues. You don’t have to wait until there’s a problem – there’s lots of things families can do together every day to look after their wellbeing.

The scale of the issue is enormous. Half of all mental health problems in adulthood begin before the age of 14. Twenty young people are turned away from receiving help from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) every day in Scotland.

SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health) launched ‘Going To Be’ last year, a campaign aimed at building a movement to give Scotland’s young people every chance to get the help they need.

Growing up today presents many pressures. We’re starting to see evidence of the detrimental impact of social media and technology on wellbeing. Bullying in modern times no longer stops at the school gate but can continue online at any time. Increasingly unrealistic expectations around body image are set as the ‘selfie’ culture grows. The list goes on.

Which is why improving the self-esteem, resilience and wellbeing of children from a young age is so important and why what families do together matters. Of course, it’s natural for children to feel sad or worried from time to time. It’s an important part of growing up and learning about how their feelings affect what they think and do. But being able to talk openly about their mental wellbeing from an early age will ensure they’re better equipped to cope as adults.

Everyone can take part in raising awareness of young people’s mental health and highlighting concerns about the lack of support available to young people who are seeking help.

The New Economics Foundation suggests that there are five ways to better wellbeing, and we’ve added in some ideas for families to try:

  • Connect. Even when we all live under one roof, it can be easy to disconnect and forgot to spend time together. Setting aside a regular time to have a meal together, or getting into the habit of sharing your best and worst moments from the day can be an easy way to connect.
  • Be active. Being active isn’t just good for physical health, it’s proven to have a positive impact on wellbeing too – at any age. Why not swap a daily car or bus journey and walk instead? Or try a new activity or sport as a family.
  • Take notice. When spending time together as a family, it’s important to be aware of the present. Create a calm space at home that’s free from mess and noise; or have some technology free time playing board games.
  • Learn. Learning enhances our self-esteem. Learning something together as a family, for example trying a new recipe or learning a new word and practicing using it, can help bring you together.
  • Give. Giving feels good – and working together as a family to give can be even better. Gather up anything you don’t need and give to a charity shop; or do something nice for another member of the family.

You can download a copy of ‘Five Way to Better Wellbeing for your Family’ from the SAMH website.

To find out more about the Going To Be campaign and add your voice to the movement at

Chloe Livey is Campaigns Officer for Scotland’s mental health charity Scottish Association for Mental Health, SAMH