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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Mikeysline Celebrates Seven Years of Mental Health Support in North of Scotland

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Staff at one of Scotland’s leading mental health and suicide prevention charities are reflecting on their achievements as the organisation celebrates its seventh anniversary.

Mikeysline has grown over the last seven years to become one of the country’s foremost grassroots mental health support services, supported by ambassadors including Hollywood star Karen Gillan, and footballing legends Steven Ferguson and John Robertson.

The anniversary comes as UK Charity Week (December 5-9) recognises the achievements of charities like Mikeysline up and down the country.

The award-winning charity provides face-to-face and text-based aid to people of all ages in the Highlands and Moray.

Demand for Mikeysline’s services has increased by 80 per cent since the Covid pandemic and related lockdowns – with its team of text line volunteers increasing from eight in early 2020 to 35 today.

CEO Emily Stokes said:

“Mikeysline was founded in 2015 in the wake of tragedy, when Martin Shaw and Michael Williamson sadly took their lives within 48 hours of each other.

“From our roots as a suicide prevention charity, we have worked over the past seven years to widen our services to offer support to anyone in emotional distress or struggling with the stresses of life.

“We are so proud of the hard work our volunteers, staff, fundraisers and supporters have provided over the years.

“Without them, we wouldn’t be able to reach as many people with the message that it’s ok not to be ok – and that help is there for those who need it.”

Mikeysline was the first mental health charity of its kind to offer text-based support.

Initially offering this via SMS, over time this service has been expanded to include WhatsApp, live web chat, Twitter and Messenger support – giving service users as many routes to support as possible.

Emily continued:

“Sometimes the hardest part of addressing an issue is to talk about it out loud, which is why our text-based services are so important.

“It allows people to communicate with us on their own terms, and gain the support and advice they need in a way that suits them and their situation.”

In recent years, Mikeysline has opened four Hives across the Highlands – named for the bee which has become synonymous with the charity – from which it provides face-to-face support in one-to-one and group sessions.

Through these sessions, Mikeysline can provide tailored support to key groups that are often lacking support – including parents of children suffering from ill mental health; men, who traditionally are less likely to talk through their problems; and business people struggling with the pressures of work.

George and Ami McCarle, two of Mikeysline’s longest-serving volunteers. George still a volunteer and Ami is now a part-time support worker.

The charity has also partnered with a number of primary and secondary schools across the north of Scotland to provide educational resources as well as in-school support to young people that need it.

Mikeysline founder Ron Williamson added:

“When we started Mikeysline, there was very little support available out of hours in the Highlands for people struggling with their mental health.

“Now, seven years on, it’s fantastic to see such support from the community for the services Mikeysline provides.

“As demand for mental health support increases, that support is more vital than ever to allow our volunteers to continue to provide help and assistance to the most vulnerable people in our community.

“From engaging young people in schools to providing tailored support to business leaders, running support sessions for often-ignored groups to supporting those facing suicidal thoughts, Mikeysline is making a huge difference to so many people’s lives every day.”

In 2021, Mikeysline launched a podcast – Speaking of Suicide – which allows people to share their stories of mental health and loss, offering support and solidarity with others facing similar situations.

To date, episodes have been downloaded over 13,300 times by listeners around the world.

Over the years, Mikeysline has been honoured with a number of awards to commemorate its efforts in reducing suicide and promoting positive mental health in the north of Scotland – including at the Highland Third Sector Interface Awards, Highland Business Women Awards, and the Highland Heroes Awards.

Emily said:

“While we are incredibly proud of what we have achieved over the last seven years, the hard work isn’t over.

“Now more than ever we’re seeing that mental health support is needed in the Highlands and beyond, to support people through some of the most turbulent times in living memory.

“We’re dedicated to enacting positive change in our communities, supporting people through times when they are struggling and empowering them to access the resources, advice and a friendly ear to unburden themselves.

“So as much as we are looking back on the years since we began, we also have our eyes firmly set on the future.”

Since 2015, Mikeysline has offered confidential, non-judgemental support to people of all ages dealing with mental health issues, emotional distress or thoughts of suicide in the Highlands and Moray.

It does this via a text line service at 07786 207755; WhatsApp at 01463 729000 and via its website; and live chat, Twitter and Messenger via its website.

The charity also produces a popular podcast, Speaking of Suicide; works closely with teachers and pupils in schools across the north of Scotland; and offers face-to-face support in four Hives across the region – at its Inverness headquarters, Tesco in Tain, The Place in Alness, and the Highland Yoga Collective in Nairn.

Here, service users can engage in one-to-one support or join in group sessions.

For more information, visit www.mikeysline.co.uk – or find Mikeysline on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

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