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World Mental Health Day: Local charities among those able to provide support

By Jean Gunn

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Listening Ear project coordinator Julie Marker.
Listening Ear project coordinator Julie Marker.

Today (Sunday) marks World Mental Health Day and volunteers and staff from the local support service Listening Ear are available to provide a helping hand.

Project coordinator Julie Marker said: "World Mental Health Day is an opportunity to showcase community based initiatives aimed at tackling the stigma around mental health as well as raising awareness of the need for quality services."

"As facilitator for the Caithness Action Group for social isolation and mental well-being group, and Caithness Cares, I hear first hand of the incredible services that charities and statutory services provide. However, we still need to address and tackle the barriers that prevent people from reaching out for support.

"At Listening Ear, a new charity set up to support people who are struggling with anything that negatively impacts their mental health, we know it takes a great deal of courage to say you need help.

"We know that often people feel ashamed or embarrassed to say they are struggling. People don’t feel ashamed if they need help for migraines or a cough so why is it that most of us feel the need to ‘keep smiling’ or put on a brave face when we are not feeling mentally well?"

She continued: "Thankfully our wonderful volunteers and staff are trained to respond to those who contact us with compassion. We are concerned for everyone, and anyone can contact us for support.

"We are learning that many men are particularly averse at asking for help, with this in mind we have recruited a men’s worker to lead a new group called Caithness JIM which is to encourage men to Join In More.

"The group is activity based and encourages peer support, we invite men of all ages and backgrounds to get on board and help us to support each other. We may be well and getting on with life one day, but we know that depression, stress and anxiety can come upon anyone at any time.

"Our work is about taking collective action to normalise talking about our worries and concerns. For some that is in a group setting, for others it is one to one."

The men's group will meet at Stepping Stones, Thurso, on Monday night from 7-9pm and a provisional starting date of Wednesday, October 20, has been set for The Haven in Wick.

Every year, the world comes together on October 10, for World Mental Health Day to promote positive mental health, raise awareness of mental health difficulties and to tackle stigma.

In Scotland around one in three people are estimated to be affected by mental health difficulties in any year.

This year, the event comes at a time when all of our lives have been challenged. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a real impact on our mental health and wellbeing, and greater investment in mental health has never been so important.

The Highland Community Planning Partnership, Mental Health and Wellbeing Delivery Group have developed resources which primarily signposts individuals and communities to trusted sources of support for mental health and wellbeing including: where to get help in a crisis; resources/weblinks to support our mental wellbeing; and learning tools to build skills and confidence in conversations about mental health and suicide prevention. Here iswhat some of the partners have to say in support of World Mental Health day:

Louise Bussell, NHS Highland’s chief officer, said: "The pandemic had a huge impact on the mental health and wellbeing of patients, services users and the wider community as a whole and has impacted our ability to deliver mental health services in Highland. Our staff rose to the challenge and did everything they could to try to ensure that they could provide the support that people needed.

"Staff were seeing people in their garden, arranging online sessions and putting on full PPE to go into people's homes to provide the assessments and treatments that people needed.

"We recognise that today is about the spectrum of mental health from mental wellbeing to complex and enduring mental illnesses. Our pledge is that with the support of the Scottish Government, we will continue to invest in developing our Mental Health services and promote wellbeing within local communities in Highland. Our ambition is to enable all people to achieve better mental health and wellbeing."

The Highland Council - health safety and wellbeing trainer, Jim McCreath said: "Looking after our own mental wellness has never been more important. People are getting better at recognising the signs of declining mental health and to either reach out for help or seek advice for loved ones.

"The Highland Council now as over 120 staff trained as volunteer mental health first aiders across the council network. In support of World Mental Health Day and as part of our ongoing focus on staff Mental Health and Wellbeing, the council will be running a range of training and awareness sessions over winter.

"As a mental health first aider and wellbeing trainer, I notice that when people reach out for support or to talk there is a feeling of relief from opening up and talking to someone. On World Mental Health Day, I encourage everyone to speak openly about mental health and wellbeing."

The five ways to wellbeing are simple things you can do to look after your mental health each and every day.

Why not design and implement your own Wellbeing Action Plan as the one thing you might consider to give your wellbeing a boost.

For further information, please visit https://www.highlandcpp.org.uk/publications-and-reports.html

A wide range of support, advice, and guidance can also be found at: World Mental Health Day Scotland, www.youngminds.org.uk, or Highland Mental Wellbeing.

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