Scotland can make this the decade of change.

Imagine feeling isolation, loneliness, anxiety, depression… these are all prevalent side effects that our staff at Cancer Support Scotland have been trying to alleviate for over 40 years for those affected by cancer. These feelings mean that many struggle to cope with their mental wellbeing and as a result are less likely to participate in their communities and enjoy socialising with friends or family for fear of being a burden.

Research from the Mental Health Foundation tells us that people with cancer are three times more likely to experience depression than the general public, and one in three people suffer from depression or anxiety following a diagnosis.

This is why, this World Cancer Day brings with it a sense of urgency… we have entered a new decade and whilst more people are being diagnosed with cancer, advances in research and treatment mean we are thankfully seeing more people survive cancer yet there remains a lack of emphasis on the need to support the wellbeing of those affected by cancer through vital tools such as counselling post medical treatment.

At the end of the last decade, the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport initiated a pause to refresh the current Scottish Governments Cancer Strategy. Given that the last strategy was written at a time when mental health was not an area as widely recognised as it is now, there was no focus within the strategy on wellbeing.

This refresh of the current strategy provides a unique opportunity for the Scottish Government to look at this ‘unmet need’ and explore options that will help to ensure the wellbeing of those affected by cancer is supported.

The Government shouldn’t shy away from a focus on wellbeing… rather they should be bold at this time of great need. As a charity we will stand side by side with all those affected by cancer, the government and grassroots counselling bodies to ensure this unmet need is met.

As well as this being a new decade, for Cancer Support Scotland it’s our 40th birthday. 40 years of experience, telling us that the current lack of investment in wellbeing support such as counselling is creating a postcode lottery of support and health inequalities across the nation. Given this and the fact that we are seeing more people each year -10% increase projected for this year alone –  accessing our services we will be launching our new strategy in March.  Bold in ambition and rich in experience. We will be focusing our efforts in ensuring the wellbeing of all those affected by cancer is supported. This is our ambition and we need partners and funder’s to support us on this journey. We can’t, nor should do it alone.

We understand budgets are tight and there are big priorities for Governments to face however if we want to be a healthier and wealthier nation we must invest in the wellbeing of those affected by Cancer.

I hope the Cabinet Secretary will hear our call and announce in the refresh of the current strategy that the Scottish Government will commit to investing in the wellbeing of those affected by cancer through grassroots services.

The challenge is big and our ambitions should match that. Let Scotland lead the way in investing in free counselling for those affected by cancer across Scotland.

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