EXPERTS from Finland will today meet with Scotland’s Mental Health Minister as they seek to learn from this country’s approach.

Tarja Filatov MP is leading a parliamentary delegation from the northern European nation on a three-day fact-finding mission.

They will today meet with Clare Haughey, an ex-mental health nurse who is the second person to hold the dedicated portfolio since it was created in 2016.

While Finland is considered a world leader in the field, Filatov – a member of her country’s Committee on Finance and Intelligence and its delegation to the Council of Europe – says Scotland is too.

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And she told The National the potential for further future collaboration on a range of issues is both “possible and important”, saying: “We are similar countries, not just in the approximate size of our populations. I’m sure we can learn from each other.

“Different countries have different specialisms. This is one of yours.

“In Finland mental health and physical health is quite divided. You have the idea of connecting mental and physical health together. That’s really great.

The National: Clare Haughey, an ex-mental health nurse, is Scotland's Minister for Mental HealthClare Haughey, an ex-mental health nurse, is Scotland's Minister for Mental Health

“Mental health is one of the biggest issues at this time. We can learn how to change our practices.”

While Finland has pioneered online mental health services, there is concern over lengthy waiting times for in-person treatment – something which also draws criticism in Scotland.

At the end of September last year there were more than 10,000 young people waiting to be seen, including around 600 who had been waiting for 53 weeks or longer.

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And while the rate of suicide is lower than in the early 2000s, an increase in the past two years has prompted renewed efforts to tackle the problem.

Finland has previously used programmes like the Choose Life anti-suicide campaign as an influence for its own work.

Filatov’s visit includes sessions with Holyrood’s Cross-Party Group on Mental Health and a number of leading public health charities, such as the Mental Health Foundation Scotland, which has facilitated the trip.

Its spokesperson Toni Giugliano says the exchange will also allow Scotland to learn from the Finnish Mental Health Partnership (Mielenterveyspooli).

He commented: “At a time of global isolationism, we must continue to work together across borders to improve people’s lives. Finland is a world leader in mental health and Scotland has a lot to learn from our Finnish neighbours, particularly in the field of mental health education, where children are taught about their emotions and self-care strategies from a young age.

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"Indeed, in Finland, mental health is seen as an educational outcome and not just a clinical intervention.

“But more than that, wellbeing is embedded in Finnish culture and society and across many policy fields such as urban planning.

“From recreation and hobbies to their use of space for public buildings, wellbeing is front and centre. We should learn from that.”

Ahead of today’s meeting, a Scottish Government spokesperson told this newspaper: “The minister looks forward to meeting with the Finnish parliamentary delegation this week as an opportunity to exchange views, inform good practice and develop links between mental health policy development in Scotland and Finland.

“The Scottish Government continues to look to other countries to learn more about international approaches to tackling mental health issues.”