A north-east comedian has stepped up his efforts to help people struggling with their mental health during lockdown – amid fears that tightening guidelines could worsen the problem.
A study by the Scottish Government last year showed that one in four Scots suffer from a mental health issue each day.
That was before the pandemic, which has heightened feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness for many.
The restrictions associated with lockdown have also been cited as a factor in people taking their own lives.
As both Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire have been plunged into Level 3 of coronavirus restrictions from today, stand-up comedian and founder of the Man Chat Aberdeen support group, Wray Thomson, is hoping a targeted leaflet drop and increased presence online will highlight the help available to those who are struggling.
Set up to give men an opportunity to discuss their feelings online and in a weekly support group, the group has experienced a huge spike in the number of individuals wishing to get in touch as a result of Covid-19.
When it first started, the group took emails from a handful of individuals each week and it now corresponds with thousands.
But Mr Thomson believes there are many more out there who could benefit from the therapy it offers.
He said: “There is a massive uncertainty in everyone’s future, when people don’t know what will happen with their job, how far they can travel, who they can go and see – that creates anxiety, not just for those with mental health problems but for everyone.
“Whether it is writing something down, or speaking over the phone, we just wanted to let people know that we are listening and there are people who want to help.”
The group is visiting Westhill Shopping Centre this Saturday, and the Trinity Centre next week, and will be handing out information and selling hand sanitiser bottles produced by local firm Parm Safe – which have suicide prevention messages written on the back.
Mr Thomson added: “I don’t like it when people say that this is the ‘new normal’ because it isn’t, this is a once in a lifetime challenge and we will get through it.
“Every storm runs out of rain eventually, and if you need help, there are people who will be there.”
The group also has plans to run a Zoom quiz on Christmas Day for anyone who is home alone throughout the festive season.