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Connect at Christmas: Mental health volunteers at Mikeysline lend an ear to those in need

Mikeysline has seen a surge in demand for support as individuals struggling with the effects of isolation.
Mikeysline has seen a surge in demand for support as individuals struggling with the effects of isolation.

A Highland charity which offers mental health support for young people is facing increasing demand – with calls tripling in recent months.

Mikeysline has been inundated with messages from people across the north in recent months.

The children’s mental health charity YoungMinds found around one in six people aged 16-24 and three children in every classroom suffers with a mental health problem.

To help establish the impact of the nationwide lockdown on mental wellbeing, the Inverness-based Mikeysline conducted a survey which found isolation, loneliness and lack of social interaction to be among the main causes of distress.

Findings generated by the 85 people who responded found 79% of them felt positive prior to lockdown, however, as restrictions continued, 41% said they had negative mental health.

Emily Stokes, service manager for Mikeysline, said volunteers have seen an increase in requests for support among young people; in particular girls who have struggled with a lack of social interaction.

She said: “It’s been really busy. During lockdown it was three times busier on our text based service.

“We anticipate that over the winter months it’s going to continue being really busy.

“Young people in particular have been impacted because, although they had social media, they are used to hanging out with people, socialising and being able to go around in groups.

“We did find, in particular, girls were struggling with the isolation.

“Initially it was because people were worried about their exam results but social isolation was another reason as they felt cut off from everyone.

“I think for the majority of young people, school offers them a place where they can socialise, they do see people so I think having that extended time away from school – as well as not being able to socialise with friends outside school – was very difficult.”

Mikeysline staff Bonnie McColl, Chairwoman Donna Smith and support workers Shona MacPherson and Pete Davidson outside the Hive.

Mikeysline was founded in 2015, following a string of suicides in the Highlands, in an effort to provide confidential, non-judgemental support to individuals suffering from mental health difficulties.

The charity offers a range of support through various channels including via text and social media.

The Hive, the Highlands first out-of-hours mental health crisis centre, also offers face-to-face support aimed at reducing social isolation whilst helping to maintain young people’s mental wellbeing.

Mrs Stokes said: “We know, on a day-to-day basis across all age ranges, that we help keep people safe during the night. For young people, sometimes it can take a lot of stress and anxiety away having that person to talk with.

“Things can start quite small but they can build up over time.

“For any age group, please don’t bottle things up, please don’t let the worry and anxiety increase. Please get support as soon as possible.

“It can be hard to ask for support, but that’s what our charity and organisations like Mikeysline are there for. We are here to support you and you should feel any quandary about contacting us if you are struggling with difficult feelings.”

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