Written by Nairn County FC January 21st 2021

Emily thank you for taking the time to get involved with this question and answer session regarding Mikeysline. For anyone who hasn’t heard of the charity can you tell me what Mikeysline do to support people in the area? Hi Ali thank you for putting this Q&A together. Mikeysline is a suicide prevention charity, with a base in Inverness, but supporting people across the Highlands.  We offer confidential, non-judgemental, peer support through our text based services – SMS, Messenger, Twitter and Webchat, every evening of the week and when not in lockdown, face to face support at the Hive Centre, Academy Street, Inverness for anyone who would prefer to meet and be supported directly.   We are here to listen, support and signpost to other services too as appropriate, depending on what issue you would like to discuss. We support people with all kinds of issues and at different levels of anxiety, worry, distress, right through to people who have suicidal intent. Some people just need someone to talk to and listen, some people need more direct support. We are available every evening of the week. Sunday to Thursday – 6pm – 10pm and Friday and Saturday 7pm to 7am. We also do as much as we can to help raise awareness about mental health and suicide, to help break down the stigma, with the view of helping people to feel they can seek support/help when they need it.   How did you first get involved with the charity? I started working for Mikeysline part-time in March 2020, just before the first lockdown and full time from April 2020. However, I have known of Mikeysline since it was established in 2015 and had met the founder, Ron Williamson, several times in Mikeysline's first few years as I was working in the mental health field in a different role at that time and was looking to see if there was a way we could work together.   You’re the service manager for Mikeysline what does your role involve?  Day to day managing Mikeysline's operations from everything to overseeing and developing the services we provide, to supporting staff and volunteers and ensuring all the support structures are in place to provide our services safely and at the highest standard and ensuring the ongoing training and professional development of staff and volunteers.  Liaising with individuals, businesses, other third sector organisations, local and national to promote Mikeysline and to secure support. Fundraising, applying for grants to support our work, networking, PR, social media, attending events for ongoing learning and development in the suicide prevention field. As a  small charity, I am the only Manager in post and, therefore, my role is very wide and needs to encompass all areas that any organisation needs to attend to.  However, this also makes it very varied and interesting.   What are your future aims for Mikeysline? Mikeysline does not receive any funding, so we rely heavily on fundraising and donations, but this is unpredictable in terms of income that may come in and that makes it that bit harder to be able to plan ahead for service developments, so one future aim is to try and develop or secure some regular income streams. Over the next year, we would like to develop the services that we offer at our Hive drop-in centre and currently we are focusing on launching a pilot for an additional young person's service, to be run after school and a few hours on a Saturday and this will start shortly. However, we would also like to run some other specific groups from the Hive, aimed at people who find it more difficult to access services and will work towards these for later on in the year. Our longer-term plans are to take the Hive on the road to see if we can offer face to face support in other areas of Highland and we would like to directly work with schools where we can. In the meantime, we are also developing links with specific organisations to make our support services more accessible to their workforce. Our overall aim is to ensure that our services are as accessible as they can be to as many people who may need our support in the Highlands as possible and to continually develop what we are able to provide.   How do people get support from the charity and  how can the general public help  Mikeysline continue to help people in the area? All support provided by Mikeysline is free and is self-referral, which means you can contact us direct for support.  People can contact our text line by SMS ( 07786 207755) or by Messenger, webchat or twitter and we will take it from there.  Additionally, for the Hive Centre, you can contact us to book an appointment, or you can come during our drop-in times.  We are open every evening (except currently during the lockdown).  If you are unsure how to best contact us, please e-mail us at enquiries@mikeysline.co.uk and we can confirm all options. The general public have always given fantastic support to Mikeysline and we are so grateful for this and hope that you can continue supporting us.  You can do this, by helping to spread awareness about Mikeysline, by following and sharing our social media messages and, by raising awareness and funds in your local community or through your workplace by fundraising on our behalf.  If you have time to spare, you can also support us through volunteering with Mikeysline.   Can you give me an example of a success story where someone has reached out and has used the service to help them overcome a difficult situation? People reach out to our service for a whole range of issues. Sometimes, people can't see a way forward due to a relationship breakdown, or financial worries, or for the fact that they have lost hope for the future given the current situation.  In each case we will listen, talk through how the person is feeling, support, signpost on to specific services if there are agencies that may be able to help directly, i.e. ones dealing with debt advice for example.  There is no limit on the number of texts someone can send and receive back from us, the number of times they contact us etc. If the person needs support the whole evening until we close, we will be there, and going foward should they need us. At other times, we will do skills based work with people who are experiencing emotional distress, anxiety or panic attacks. The aim of this is for the person to be able to use these skills when they are feeling anxious to prevent things from escalating out of control for them. Sometimes people contact us regularly to go through these skills, or to go through breathing exercises to give them some comfort on any evening when they are feeling scared or distressed. There are also many other evenings where our focus is on keeping someone safe that night and crisis intervention also forms a bit part of our role. Without wishing to go into a specific case, I will end with some feedback we received from someone we supported through a very difficult night for them. “I just want to say Thank you!  I spoke to someone a few nights ago and I am not sure I would have made it to the morning without them. What you all do is amazing and an absolutely vital service.  So again Thank you  xx . “   How many calls/texts do Mikeysline receive in a typical week? This can vary so much from week to week as one caller can need support the whole evening, so difficult to give a figure. However, we have new people contacting us all the time as well as ongoing people that we are supporting on a regular basis and some who dip in and out for support. Since Christmas, we have had over a dozen new people seek support from us on the text line.   How many volunteers work for the charity? We currently have  36 volunteers.  25 of our volunteers directly support our textline, 6 of our volunteers are on our Board and the rest are supporting us in different ways, helping with fundraising, admin, IT etc.   How did the collaboration with  Nairn County football club come about and how do you feel this is going so far? The collaboration with Nairn County was made possible by the very generous support and sponsorship of Gordy Stewart of SideCrystal Ltd. This not only introduced us to Nairn County FC, but also ensured that our logo and info was on banners at the football ground, on club shirts and on our own flag! Since then, I have been working closely with the club through Brodie Stewart as the Mental Health Officer, and it has been great to have this direct link to the club through Brodie. Given the circumstances and current restrictions in football and around as a whole, I think it is going extremely well and very much appreciate all the support that the Club has given to date to Mikeysline. I look forward to a time where Mikeysline can be in more regular contact with the Club and teams. We have in the meantime, met with the teams for short talks to raise awareness about mental health, suicide prevention and Mikeysline.   So finally Emily if you are reading this article and you are in a vulnerable state what would your advice be?  Don't be alone with difficult thooughts and feelings, please reach out and talk to someone, be it a friend or family member or contact Mikeysline.  Your health, happiness and safety is so important and you should never feel you are alone with whatever you are struggling with.  Talking things through with someone else can help in terms of putting things into perspective or identifying what additional support you may need.  You are not alone, there are people there wanting to support you. Thank you for your time Emily take care and stay safe. I would now like to turn to Brodie Stewart who became Nairn County first mental Heath officer last year. Hi Brodie thanks for taking the time to join me today.    How are you and how are you getting through lockdown at present?  I’m good thank you Ali, thanks for inviting me to this Q&A.  Getting through this lockdown by keeping busy and with the vaccine being rolled out is keeping me positive that we can get back to some normality soon.   How did your role come about as mental health officer for Nairn County  as this role didn’t exist previously? Once the club had linked up with Mikeysline back in late summer, I was approached whether I would be interested in this new role.  They felt it was important that someone was solely responsible take on this role and to raise awareness at such a key time.     What are your job specifics?  My main role here is to liaise with all our local mental health charities.  To involve them with our football club and to raise as much awareness as we can. To find opportunities to provide a support network to our club, players and the wider community.     How are you finding the role at Nairn County is it what  you expected? It has been great so far, an eye opener at times but it is so important.  It hasn’t been straight forward with the restrictions surrounding match days and the usual ways that we would plan any charity days/nights have been halted at the moment.  Having said that, we are looking into a some alternatives at the moment.   How often do you liase with Emily at Mikeysline? Every week we catch up and if there is any questions I have or if I need any advice, Emily has been brilliant.   What do you think the charity provides for the area? To our local area Mikeysline have got a text line that people who may want to talk about certain things can, totally confidential and non-judgemental.  The Hive drop in centre they have in Academy Street in Inverness is a great facility that you will always be welcomed by one of the committed volunteers should you feel you need it.   Your dad has very generously become one of the main sponsors of the club and forfeited the naming rights to include Mikeysline that was a superb gesture. Were you involved in the negotiations for this?  Not directly, I told my dad I had spoken to Mikeysline before the first lockdown to see if there was something I could do to raise awareness.  My dad came to me with the idea and it stemmed from there, he deserves the full credit.   What are your future aims in your role and what support do you require for this? I would like to push the raising awareness for our local charities.  Obviously with all the restrictions at the moment we can’t go down the usual routes.  This support from our supporters has been invaluable.  I know the fantastic support from our fans will continue.  Keep an eye out for future events, which we are looking to go forward with as soon as we can.   I know you have had friends who have sadly passed away due to mental health issues in the past which is extremely sad. If you have any advice for someone in a similar position right now, what would you say?  It is so important to speak, I know it’s said all the time but it really is crucial.  Reach out to your family, a friend, a work colleague, a teacher, Mikeysline or someone you feel comfortable speaking to. We all need to look after each other.    Thank you Brodie for your time and your insight into your role and thoughts. Good luck in the future with your role at the club. Ali Nicol

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