20 Years of Breathing Space: lifeline for mental wellbeing marks major milestone

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February 1st (Breathing Space Day) marks a significant moment for mental health support in Scotland as Breathing Space, the free, confidential telephone service, celebrates its 20th anniversary.

Breathing Space is delivered by NHS 24, which is Scotland’s provider of digital and telephone-based health and care services. Launched in 2004, the service has grown to become a vital lifeline for countless individuals across the country, offering a listening ear, practical advice, and essential support during times of emotional distress. 

Over the past two decades, Breathing Space has made a profound impact, responding to more than 1.5 million calls, and providing more than 96,000 hours of one-to-one support. This crucial service would not be possible without the unwavering commitment of its dedicated staff, who answer calls day and night, offering non-judgmental support to anyone in need. 

Tony McLaren, National Coordinator, Breathing Space, said  

“For twenty years, Breathing Space has been a beacon of hope for people struggling with their mental health. 

“We are incredibly proud of the difference we’ve made in supporting individuals and families across Scotland. Our commitment to providing accessible, confidential, and compassionate non-judgmental support remains unwavering, and we look forward to continuing to be a vital resource for many years to come.” 

Mental Wellbeing Minister Maree Todd said:  

“I am grateful to the Breathing Space staff for the support they have provided to people feeling low, stressed, or anxious over the past 20 years – support which I know they continue to provide every day.  

“This out of hours service complements other sources of mental health support available in person, by phone and online, including support from a GP, help via the 111 Mental Health Hub and the range of practical mental wellbeing tips on the NHS inform platform. 

“Taking good care of our mental health and wellbeing is as important as looking after our physical health. I would urge anyone who is experiencing low mood, anxiety or distress in their lives to get in touch with Breathing Space or to look at the range of helpful advice on the Breathing Space and Mind to Mind websites.” 

The success of Breathing Space Scotland is also a testament to the strong partnerships it has built with many organisations. Breathing Space has worked in partnership with many diverse organisations from the Scottish Prison Service and the SFA to local housing associations and third sector organisations such as Change Mental Health. These partnerships allow the service to offer specialised support tailored to specific needs and to extend the reach to even more individuals across diverse communities. 

Jim Hume, Director of Public Affairs, Policy and Communications at Change Mental Health, said: 

“Support should be available to everyone no matter where they live in Scotland. Change Mental Health’s partnership work with Breathing Space is vital to those in our services and in wider communities across Scotland. It ensures that people get the best support they need and when they need it. Change Mental Health look forward to further promoting the work of Breathing Space to help people get the best support and advice available.” 

Breathing Space Scotland’s 20th anniversary is not just a celebration of past achievements, but also a call to action. Mental health challenges continue to impact many people, and Breathing Space reminds everyone that “you matter, we care”. If you or someone you know is struggling, remember, it’s okay to take some breathing space. A friendly voice and a listening ear are just a phone call away. 

  • To access Breathing Space Scotland’s free and confidential service, call 0800 83 85 87 or visit their website at breathingspace.scot for online chat and resources.

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