The impact of the Coronavirus pandemic has without question devastated the lives of many since March 2020, bringing about changes to how we now live our lives.
Some of these changes have brought about positive outcomes, with local community groups engaging and supporting those most vulnerable within their communities.
One such group in Dunblane reached out to one of our service users during the pandemic, and on learning of their tragic loss following the suicide of their only son, proposed the memorial ‘Taylor’s Bench’ to be erected in his name. This beautiful bench, erected in a quiet location within the 13 acre greenspace in the Holmhill area of Dunblane by a local community group, provides a tranquil spot for not only Taylor’s mum to reflect but the wider community and visitors to this area too.
The memorial reads as follows:
Taylor was a 27-year-old young man who took his own life on the 19th of March 2016. He was struggling with his mental health at the time, but nobody knew just how bad he was feeling when it happened.
Originally from Stirling, he was a fun loving man who had plenty of friends and hobbies. He excelled at Dundee Univeristy where he studied English Literature. He loved poetry, and shared this with others through the university poetry society, which he founded. After University, he spent few years living and working in England, but returned to Scotland to start teacher training.
The carved features of this bench symbolise some of the things he loved, including poetry, Bob Dylan and nature. We want this bench to help keep Taylor’s memory alive, and remind everyone that even in those darkest moments, there is always another way.
Taylor was loved by many, and there was nothing in his life that couldn’t have been fixed, if he had only picked up the phone. Suicide is more common than you may think, particularly in young men. They often feel nobody cares, and that they won’t be missed. Sometimes these feelings come out of the blue, with no warning, and suicide seems like the only option – but it isn’t, there is always someone to talk to…
Action in Mind, a local Stirling based charity supports individuals in need across the Forth Valley. They supported Taylor’s mum through this difficult time. We would like to raise funds to support and extend this charity’s excellent work, particularly in developing services for young people. We would like to call this “Taylor’s Bench” fund.
If we can save one life that’s an excellent outcome…
Youth Aloud 2016
Youth Aloud was Action in Mind’s campaign theme for children and young people's emotional wellbeing in 2016/2017 across the Stirling Council area. The main event was kick-started during Scottish Mental Health Week in October 2016 by welcoming First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon to rural Stirlingshire and to McLaren High School, Callander where she met over 200 young people from all the local high schools.
Caption: First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP.
By way of introducing the First Minister and opening the event, Action in Mind’s Executive Director, Helena Scott said:
“Young people’s mental health is hitting the headlines now more than ever before. Even more worrying is that the age profile is getting lower and lower of those needing help. We need a service response that is immediate and relevant to stop further escalation and more young people’s lives being affected. Young people can themselves be the catalysts of change and we must ensure that we place them at the centre of what we do hereon.”
We thank the First Minister for accepting our invitation and opening up this discussion and also to Eilidh, Erin and Terri who bravely share with their peers today their personal experiences of mental ill-health.’
The personal contributions and recollections of their own mental health difficulties by each of the three presenters, Eilidh, Erin and Terri were highly applauded for their honest disclosures of how this had affected them during their teenage years.
Eilidh, Young Persons' Social Group Volunteer (Action in Mind) and Lived Experience Researcher (Mental Health Foundation). Extract from Letter to my 14 year old self.
“Breathe, this will pass. Yes, it will take a long time. Many years of hospital admissions and worries about having admissions and worries about having no qualifications but things will work out. The thought of having to leave home to go into hospital far away from all your family and friends is heart breaking as there is nowhere local for teenagers like you. You’ll meet new people who have similar problems. It will be a relief to know that you are not the only one. Many years of hospital admissions have passed … you started an access to science course then an HND in applied biological sciences, then you got your degree in immunology and microbiology at the age of 31 at Strathclyde University. It may not have been the conventional way of doing things but you got there in the end. Well done Eilidh.”
Erin McAuley, student teacher, University of Stirling.
“Mental illness should not be any less valid than our physical health. I would not be left vulnerable for months, judged or left ashamed or unaware of where to seek support if I was physically ill.
With far too many young people taking their lives, unaware of support services, battling their illnesses and problems alone, it’s important that young people’s mental health is taken seriously. Stigmas can be shattered not just broken and that begins with early intervention and education.”
Terri MSYP (Chair, Scottish Youth Parliament) referred to the Scottish Youth Parliament’s national survey of young people which polled the views of 1,453, 12-26 year olds and consulted with 30 young people in ix focus groups. She said, “The mental health crisis facing this generation must be tackled, and the only way to do that is by listening to the voices of young people themselves. Firm and decisive action is needed from national and local government to ensure that they issue young people have identified in our report are acted upon as an urgent priority.”
For access to the Scottish Youth Parliament’s survey, Our Generation’s Epidemic (July 2016) and the 10 key findings and 11 recommendations for action, visit our Information and Publications section.
We were delighted to welcome Dr Jo Inchly, Acting Director of the Child and Adolescent Health Research Unit (CAHRU) at the University of St Andrews to present findings from the Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children Survey in Scotland (2014). She said, “Mental health is emerging as one of the top public health priorities for young people in Scotland. While many aspects of health have shown improvements in recent years evidence shows a worsening of mental and emotional wellbeing, especially among teenage girls.
The adolescent years are a critical period of transition which brings many challenges including increased academic expectations, shifting social relationships and the physical and psychological changes associated with puberty. Young people need support to help them successfully navigate this important stage of life.”
The First Minister responded to many excellent questions from young people by highlighting in her responses some key developments the Scottish Government was planning, as well as commenting on how young people might themselves tackle some of the issues that affect their mental health.
These included commitments to:
- additional resources to increase staff within the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS)
- the inclusion of children and young people in the forthcoming mental health strategy for Scotland (2017-2027).
The First Minister noted that few young people present were aware of ‘See Me’ and its current work around young peoples’ mental health. She added that there was a peer support role that young people could play themselves in schools to tackle mental health stigma.
Vote of Thanks
Marc Fleming, Head Teacher at McLaren High School said, “I am delighted that McLaren High School has been able to host the Youth Aloud event and that Young people from across Stirlingshire have been able to attend and hear first-hand personal experiences of mental ill-health. This has given our young people the opportunity to speak with the First Minister and to have an open dialogue around the issues relating to mental health.“
Members of our staff and volunteer teams took part in the Virtual Kiltwalk in April 2021. After the 50% top-up from the Sir Tom Hunter Foundation, we raised an incredible £2,037.60! Many thanks to everyone who participated, donated, and spread the word.