By Jason Bohan

IT has been easy to feel a little lost lately. The impact of the pandemic has dominated headlines – covering the pressure on our health services and the rapid decline of the economy. Every day the ticker counts higher on the number of tests taken, the number of hospital admissions, and the number of jobs lost. As psychologists, we know that the ensuing stress, anxiety, and isolation are rippling across our lives.

Recovery from the pandemic has dominated the Scottish Parliament elections, but we cannot ignore the social problems within our society, and how the virus has exacerbated some of these inequalities. That’s why we’re calling on the next government to build on the rehabilitation framework by including specialist psychological services in hospital and community settings.

These problems are unfortunately not new. Scotland has a long-term relationship with drug, alcohol, and tobacco misuse, high rates of obesity and domestic violence, and long mental health waiting lists. For policymakers, both existing and aspiring, tackling these seemingly intractable problems cannot succeed without having psychologically-informed policies which are grounded in an understanding of human behaviour. As the representative body for psychologists, we already have more than 3,500 of our members working in Scotland across applied settings, such as schools, hospitals, workplaces and prisons, and their expertise has helped us to identify seven priorities within our 2021 Psychological Manifesto for the next Scottish Government.

We know the nation has suffered this past year or so – heightened anxiety and increased rates of depression are obvious and many have experienced significant trauma and loss. Our health and care professionals have also given their all to provide the highest levels of care.

But a psychological approach can go far beyond the treatment of a condition such as Covid-19 – it also supports individuals with career coaching, development programmes for those facing redundancy or a career change, or those returning to the labour market after a period of ill health. This holistic approach is invaluable – building resilience, confidence, and improving both financial and mental health.

Our children and young people have also been affected, many have experienced high levels of worry; suffered bereavement; and missed countless educational opportunities. We want to ensure our recovery builds support everywhere it is needed – providing a range of psychological therapies to meet the different needs those who need help and those who provide it.

As psychologists we view behaviour change as being central to the prevention, early intervention, treatment, and management of a range of public health issues. Psychological evidence can aid our efforts in a range of areas such as the prevention of obesity, smoking and excess alcohol consumption and we’ll continue to work with the Scottish Government in these important areas.

So our message to our next generation of policymakers and the next Scottish Government is clear. Psychology can be an important ally in the fight against Scotland’s intractable social and public health issues. Only by working together – policymakers and psychologists – can we make a real impact.

Jason Bohan is British Psychological Society Scottish Branch Chair