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North mental health charity helps thousands as public urged to mark fifth anniversary

Donna Smith, chairwoman of Mikeysline, Scott Boyd, ambassador of Mikeysline and Emily Stokes, service manager.
Donna Smith, chairwoman of Mikeysline, Scott Boyd, ambassador of Mikeysline and Emily Stokes, service manager.

A textline service, set up to address the high rate of suicide in the north, has helped thousands over the course of its five-year existence.

Mikeysline in Inverness was set up in response to the deaths of Mikey Williamson and Martin Short, who took their own lives in October 2015.

Mikey’s uncle Ron Williamson founded the charity with hundreds coming out on its launch night in a unified stance that the problem needed addressing.

Mr Williamson said it is “bittersweet” to see the charity grow to the size it is today.

Founder steps down from Highland mental health charity after celebrating 70th birthday and four years at the helm

He said: “It is bitter that it is needed to grow as much but sweet that we know it is helping thousands of people.

“There are expressions that have now been translated into languages all around the world, none of which were in existence six years ago.

“The one that is most used now, ‘it’s ok not to be ok’, was actually coined by a service user of Mikeysline.

“When we first heard it, it sounded clumsy but it has come to be very poignant.”

He added: “You have now got people talking about owning their mental health. People just didn’t talk about it six years ago.

“All we have been saying to people is there is no shame in having mental health difficulties.

“There are people who have been to the brink themselves and come back, who are there to help you.

“There are people I met at Michael’s funeral, who if I was going to be cynical about it I wouldn’t have given them a year, and now they are bringing up families, they are in good jobs and they are looking forward.

“They have a future.”

The textline service launched on December 6, 2015, the first of its kind in the UK, and was chosen as it was believed people may find it easier to chat via text than pick up the phone.

To mark the five-year anniversary, the charity is asking supporters to mark the occasion again through a candlelit vigil, albeit virtually this time.

Current chairwoman Donna Smith said the charity has come a long way since it opened and has “undoubtedly saved lives”.

She said: “We are marking this anniversary in a very different way to what we might have done in normal times, but we hope that it allows people to engage in some way, reflect on their own experiences, remember those who have been tragically lost and spare a thought for those who may be struggling at the moment.”

She added that suicide rates are still on the increase across Scotland with “much work to do”.

Mrs Smith added: “2020 will have a devastating impact on people’s mental health for some time to come.

“I would urge everyone to look out for friends, family members and if you think someone is struggling, don’t be afraid to just ask them if they are ok and then to really listen to what they have to say.”

Currently, an average of 37 people each week access the textline service which can be accessed at 07786 20 77 55

Samaritans also provide free anonymous and confidential emotional support for people experiencing crisis and distress, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

You can contact Samaritans by phone on 116 123, or by visiting to find your nearest branch.

In Numbers

  • Mikeysline has supported over 500 people through the textline since it started, currently at average of around 37 people per week.
  • There has been a 60% increase in visits to The Hive (drop-in centre) in the first six months of 2020 compared to last year
  • A large increase in the proportion of woman using the service has been recorded
  • There has also been an increase in service users from outside Inverness with more requests to see people under the age of 18
  • Range of ages who have either texted or visited Mikeysline rangers from 14 to 75
  • There are currently 42 volunteers, 30 on the textline, six supporting other functions such as admin, IT, fundraising and awareness-raising and six trustees
  • Eight members of staff, seven of which are part-time. Six are support workers.

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