A guest from Kirsty Connell, former Labour candidate and Vice Chair of the STUC’s Young Workers’ Committee. Thanks Kirsty!

Calton Hill campaign picBigotry, booze, a better wage. The SNP’s priorities as they return to Holyrood after recess are clear. Tackling sectarianism, introducing minimum pricing for alcohol and bringing in a Scottish Living Wage across the public sector.

Noble causes. But behind each of the social ills these three priorities attempt to remedy, a wider malaise lingers. The same sickness that infiltrated the riots earlier this month, the same that has and will continue to haunt Scotland.

Poverty. Discrimination. Violence. Poor health. All can be entwined, with one leading to the other. Equally they can be separate, afflicting an individual with one but not another. Each however has a common factor, snarling alongside each evil: the black dog of poor mental health.

The link between joblessness and poor mental health is both obvious and stark, especially among young people. According to The Future You, an online mentoring service, one in four young unemployed Scots has considered suicide. Although Scottish unemployment fell between 7.7% in early 2011, the rate of youth unemployment is stuck at 20%. In fellow devolved nation Wales, the Prince’s Trust found 48% of unemployed respondents to the 2011 Macquarie Youth Index claimed their lack of work led to panic attacks, self harm and self loathing.

It’s not just a problem for devolved nations, nor does it just affect those out of work. According World Health Organisation data published recently in Lancet, mental health disorders make up almost half of the diseases affecting the world’s adolescents and young adults.

It might not just be Scotland’s problem, but that doesn’t mean it’s a crisis the Scottish Government can ignore out of supposed powerlessness.

The push for improvements in young people’s mental health is still from outwith government. The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy continues to call for a trained counsellor in every school. Family Nurse Partnerships and the early detection of cancer are welcome and necessary health policies, announced by the SNP during the election campaign. But no party in Scotland has a national strategy to implement the 2005 report The Mental Health of Children and Young People, which called for provision of confidential and accessible counselling for all young Scots by 2015.

Drinking because there’s nothing else to do. Invoking seventeenth century Irish politics as invective because sights are so narrowed. Struggling to even access a wage.

If Salmond and the SNP truly want to transform Scotland’s wellbeing, beyond mere physical health to a truly fit society, more thinking with – and for – the head is required.