Keynote Session 4: Mental Health Recovery and Renewal

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every single person in Scotland. It has created anxiety and worry, and there is no doubt that individuals, families and communities will have found the past year really tough. Some of the mental health impacts of COVID-19 and of lockdown are only beginning to fully materialise. We also know that the mental health impact of the pandemic will not have been felt equally across Scotland, with existing inequalities playing a significant role in this.

As we learn to live with the pandemic, we need to continue to support good mental health and wellbeing, to help people manage their own mental health, and to build their emotional resilience. We need to ensure that people get the right support, at the right time, and in the right setting – including when mental illness does occur.

The past year has been unprecedented, but there has also been an unprecedented level of creativity and innovation in the way we provide support for our mental health. This session is a chance to hear from Kevin Stewart MSP, Minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care, about the Scottish Government’s work to realise its vision of ensuring the right mental health help is in place for people across Scotland.


Alistair Cook

Principle Medical Advisor, Scottish Government

Alastair Cook became Principal Medical Officer for Mental Health, in Scottish Government in July 2020.


Gordon Johnston

Lived Experience Advisor, Voices Of eXperience (VOX)

Gordon Johnston was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2007, and is active in many voluntary sector mental health organisations.

Lee Knifton

Lee Knifton is Director of The Mental Health Foundation (MHF), Scotland's leading national charity for public mental health, addressing mental health equalities and preventing mental health problems.

Martin McKay

Registered Mental Health Nurse / Partnership Representative, NHS Grampian

Martin McKay has been a Registered Mental Health Nurse for over 30 years, a Trade Union member his working life and an accredited UNISON steward for over 15 years.

Kevin Stewart MSP

Minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care, Scottish Government

Before Kevin's election to the Scottish Parliament, he was previously the Depute Leader of Aberdeen City Council and served as a local councillor for more than eleven years. As a councillor, he chaired the Finance and Resources Committee and the North East of Scotland's Regional Transport Partnership, NESTRANS.

Rachel Cackett

Executive Director for Samaritans Scotland, Samaritans Scotland

Rachel has been Executive Director for Samaritans Scotland since January 2020.