It’s no secret that the festive holidays can be rough, but this January is expected to be particularly tough for some.
For while the beginning of the new year signals a time of celebration, it could also signal the ringing in of the January Blues as an almost-enforced period of reflection and looking to the future takes hold.
With that in mind, Aberdeen mental health charity Man Chat is kicking off its “month of mindfulness” to help those struggling at this time of year to focus on the positives and remember that help is at hand.
Founder Wray Thomson said: “New year is normally a time of reflection for many, and for a lot of people in Scotland new year is a like a fresh start.
“With lockdown measures in place, it makes fresh starts and dropping the baggage of last year a bit harder.”
The north-east comedian, who set up the charity to support men with mental health issues in 2019, is encouraging people to reach out if they’re in a “bad place” throughout January.
“We have put together a ‘month of mindfulness’ for people to try as a new year’s resolution,” he said.
“There will be four new weekly mental health exercises to help people keep on top of their mental health for the start of the year and hopefully onwards throughout the year.
“We’ll be posting the weekly exercises on our social media page and asking our followers to keep us updated with their progress throughout, hopefully encouraging more and more people to take up mental exercise in 2021.”
Set up to give men an opportunity to discuss their feelings online and in a weekly support group, Man Chat has experienced a huge spike in the number of individuals getting in touch as a result of Covid-19.
When it first started, the group took emails from a handful each week and it now corresponds with thousands.
Mr Thomson also spent the lead up to Christmas on the streets and around Aberdeen’s shopping centres handing out subtle offerings of support and selling hand sanitiser bottles produced by local firm Palm Safe – which have suicide prevention messages written on the back.
“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,” he added.
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 latest figures produced by Public Health Scotland show suicide rates across Scotland increased by more than 6% in 2019.
And the number of people who took their own lives in Aberdeenshire in 2019 was 37 – four short of the 41 recorded 16 years ago.
The statistics, which predate the pandemic, have prompted calls for a transformation of mental health services, with campaigners concerned coronavirus lockdowns have made it harder for people in need to access support.
Mr Thomson added: “The fact remains that the festive period is difficult for a lot, I know this first hand, I lost my mother three years ago at the very start of the new year and I often feel myself pondering and mulling about things, and the same goes for many others.
“So it’s very important that people seek the correct help.”
Across Scotland, there were 833 probable suicides registered in 2019, up 6.25% on the 784 recorded a year previous. There were 37 cases in Aberdeenshire compared to 31 in 2018.
Figures in Aberdeen are down five since 2018 with 25 deaths by suicide registered, a significant drop on the 2015 total where 43 deaths were attributed to suicide.
Moray registered 17 suicides in 2019 and 16 the year before.
To find out more about the support on offer please visit: https://www.facebook.com/ManChatAbz/