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City deaths prompts new crisis line

By Neil MacPhail

Jamie-Lyn McBride
Jamie-Lyn McBride

THE tragic deaths of two young Inverness men has prompted their friends to set up a unique text crisis service to try and prevent similar loss of life.

Details of the novel helpline emerged this week, only days after a young Inverness mother was found dead in her home.

The body of mother-of-one Stacey Duggan (21) was discovered by her fiancé Ryan Brandie in their Assynt Road home last Wednesday night after he returned from buying milk and bread.

The funeral will take place at Trinity Church tomorrow.

Mr Brandie (21) said the incident was being treated as a sudden death and police said there were no suspicious circumstances.

It is only five weeks since close friends Michael Williamson and Martin Shaw, both 23, were found dead in their homes in Drynie Avenue and South Kessock, respectively. It is feared they took their own lives.

Their sad deaths sparked a huge outpouring of grief among their family and large group of friends and the shock double blow led to an unprecedented vigil being held on Castle Hill in the city centre when scores of lanterns were released into the night sky in memory of the young men.

Now it is hoped a legacy for good will come from the deaths of "Mikey", who was a barman at Weatherspoons in Church Street, and Martin, better known as "Porky", who worked in the construction industry.

A group of their friends, assisted by Mikey’s uncle, Ron Williamson from Southampton, are well on their way to setting up a special text help service.

One of those spearheading the move is Jamie-Lyn McBride who knew both men and was a friend of Michael.

She said: "Ron approached me saying he wanted to create a crisis line and he thought the best people to do this were those of a similar age to Michael and Martin who knew the pressures young people often come under.

"I have a history of working with the charity Action on Depression and immediately was drawn to the idea of trying to help.

"After recent events around the Highlands it’s time we did something.

"We have recently became the proud owners of www.mikeysline.co.uk which will be a website where people can turn when they need a form of comfort and when they need reminded they are not alone.

"Our main goal is to set up a text crisis line which will be manned by a handful of volunteers to help vulnerable people when they need it most.

"My fear was that a phone line doesn’t work and people hang up when they hear a voice. It has been found that one in four people who phone a crisis line hang up when they hear another persons voice, so this is why we are setting up the text line so they still get the help they need without that pressure of actually talking.

"The act of texting and waiting for a reply could also be a distraction from what the person is thinking.

"For the same reason we are also looking at setting up a Facebook page to back up the text crisis service."

Jamie-Lyn (25), a car rental agent, said business cards and flyers for distribution in places such as pubs, clubs and taxis are being printed and they hope to have the service operating before Christmas.

Jamie-Lyn said: "Christmas might be party time, but it is a time of loneliness for many and can be hard time for families and friends who have lost loved ones.

"The crisis line is going to be run by volunteers 24/7. I have already had a lot of people saying, ‘How can I help?’

"The response has been amazing."

She said that having a personal background of depression she knows that being able to speak about the illness has helped her greatly.

To fund the service £1,500 is needed to publicise the line, create posters and to pay for the line rental and this is being done through the gofundme website. This has already raised £720 with one woman giving £500.

Jaimie-Lyn said: "I’ve lost 16 people in nine years. During my worst times when I felt I had nowhere to turn I would have really appreciated talking to someone by text. Some people have nowhere to turn. Let’s help them.

Mr Williamson said: "The ability of some fellow human beings to share the pain of others never fails to amaze me and restores my faith in humanity.

"The under-funded authorities are facing an uphill battle, the charities are doing their best. The system isn’t working, something had to be done.

"What was missing was the ability to interact with people of a similar age. I contacted Jamie-Lyn with a view to setting up a helpline and she came up with the brilliant idea to make it a text line, available to all while retaining anonymity. Mikeysline was born.

"We hope the site www.mikeysline.co.uk will provide information and a forum for shared experience. We are also looking to provide training for two of our volunteers who will then pass on their knowledge to others.

I need to stress that Mikeysline will be manned by young volunteers, not professionals or charities, young people who in some cases have been to the brink themselves and managed to step back.

"If Mikeysline can help just one person out of despair, back from the brink and help put a Mikey smile back on their face it will all be worthwhile."

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