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Mikeysline mental health charity establishes new men's group to coincide with International Men's Health Week

By Chris Saunderson

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MEN aged 35-39 and under 30 are the most likely to commit suicide.

Reece is one of Mikeysline's volunteers.
Reece is one of Mikeysline's volunteers.

In 2020, one in every five suicide deaths was a man under the age of 30.

There were 805 probable suicides registered in Scotland in 2020, and 71.4 per cent of those were male (575) and 230 women.

With June 13-19 being International Men’s Health Week, the charity Mikeysline, which has its headquarters in Inverness and supports communities across the Highlands and Moray, has established a men’s group to provide a safe and confidential space for men to share their concerns.

Run by men for men, the group meets monthly on Wednesdays from 6.30-7.30pm at the charity’s Inverness Hive at 19 Academy Street. The next two meetings are due to be held on June 15 and July 20.

Graeme is there to help.
Graeme is there to help.

In every year since 1985, more than 70 per cent of people dying from suicide have been male.

Mikeysline men’s group volunteer Graeme said: “Traditionally men struggle to talk openly about their emotions. Whether men feel like addressing their feelings is a show of weakness, feel ashamed for needing help, or are embarrassed to be struggling, it can be easy for them to bottle up their emotions until they feel like they are at breaking point.

“Although thankfully these old stereotypes are starting to fade, there is still so much to be done to support men through difficult times in their lives – and Mikeysline’s new men’s group goes some way to continuing that process alongside the text-based and 1:1 support we provide.

“By allowing men to gather together and share their concerns and feelings, it opens up the conversation that it’s ok not to be ok – and that there are others out there going through similar experiences. Just knowing you are not fighting this battle alone can make all the difference.

“Each session is themed around a relevant topic, chosen by the group at the previous meeting. As well as providing support and an introduction to Mikeysline’s other services, the men’s group offers a chance for men to socialise and meet other people with shared interests.”

Another volunteer Keith added: “Talking can be hard sometimes, but it can be powerful too. We have a safe and welcoming place where that can happen. No pressure to be anyone but who you are. No pressure to say anything at all if you don’t want to. Just being with us can be enough.”

Gary is one of the volunteers.
Gary is one of the volunteers.

The charity was founded in 2015 following the tragic deaths of good friends, Martin Shaw and Michael (Mikey) Williamson within 48 hours of each other.

Mikey’s uncle, Ron Williamson, started the charity along with a group of like-minded individuals who wanted to provide greater mental health support for the Highlands, where suicide rates are higher than elsewhere in Scotland.

Ron Williamson said: “Speaking to many of Michael's friends and peers after his funeral made me aware that there was very little help available for young people struggling with a multitude of mental health issues. What help there was seemed to be basically ‘man up and soldier on’, all in hushed terms.

“Over the seven years since Mikeysline started, thankfully more and more small organisations are breaking through this 'macho' barrier, and encouraging those struggling to open up, share, and help each other. Local celebrities such as the Stoltman brothers, football managers and players, and leaders in commerce are sharing their experiences, letting people know that it's OK to talk.

"Now, in schools throughout the Highlands, the wonderful Mikeysline team is teaching resilience and hope to children at an age when this kind of training, and the assurance that they are not alone, is most needed to give them the armour they need to cope with future problems."

Mikeysline offers 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, and offers face-to-face support from four Hives across the region – at its Inverness headquarters, Tesco in Tain, The Place in Alness, and the Highland Yoga Collective in Nairn.

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

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