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Please help us and Mikeysline in the Highlands to save lives

By Chris Saunderson

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George King, left, has been a volunteer for five years.
George King, left, has been a volunteer for five years.

Helping someone at a time of crisis in their life is one of the most rewarding and altruistic things you could do.

George King has been a volunteer with Mikeysline for nearly five years.

He was prompted to get involved with the charity after the death of an 18-year-old friend to suicide.

When he learned of the charity and its vision to support people at risk of taking their own life, George became a volunteer aged just 19.

“The most important thing is to listen to people. It can take a while to get it out of them and reassure them that this is a safe place to talk about anything,” he said.

“It gives me great pleasure in knowing somebody has texted and they have reached out to communicate their problems, because that is one of the hardest things in the world to do when you are in a deep, dark pit.”

Mikeysline was founded in 2015 after a tragic number of suicides in the Highland area. It now also provides support to people in Moray and further afield.

Its text-based support includes SMS, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Webchat and Twitter.

It also runs The Hive, mental health and crisis support centres, with 1:1 appointments and drop-in.

And in 2021 it launched a Young Person’s Service to support young people.

The staff of Highland News and Media have voted for Mikeysline to be its 2022-23 Charity of the Year, and have pledged to raise as much money as they can over the coming 12 months.

George said a call or text message to Mikeysline can be the first step down the road to mental health recovery.

Volunteers with the charity will listen to each individual and point them in the right direction to get extra support and help.

The crucial thing is to be personable, added George, and take time to listen to the person, and understand how they are feeling.

“There was one woman who texted in and I called the police because I was worried about her. She texted back the next day to say I had saved her life.

“We all have our problems and sometimes we can make them bigger, in our own heads, than they are. It just takes someone else to say ‘things are not as bad as they seem’.”

George provided textline support and face to face peer help at Mikeysline’s Hive when he first started as a volunteer.

The business solutions adviser with the University of the Highlands and Islands, still helps out several times a month with the charity and is one of its longest serving volunteers.

“We have a lot more volunteers now and the work is shared out among them.”

Emily Stokes, chief executive of Mikeysline, said: “We are absolutely delighted that staff at Highland News and Media have chosen Mikeysline as their charity this year and we hope to use this tremendous opportunity to talk generally about mental health and wellbeing and suicide prevention as well as the support that is available for people of all ages.

“Only by talking about these subjects openly can we help others to feel more able to reach out for support when they most need it without fear of judgement or stigma. It’s ok not to be ok, but when we are not ok, talking about it with people we trust and reaching out for support can make a huge difference to our lives and others around us.

“At Mikeysline we are always striving to develop and expand our services further and as well as providing individual support, we work with schools, businesses and offer group support.

“As a charity, we ultimately rely on fundraising. We have been so lucky and are so grateful for the amazing support that we have received as a grass roots charity since 2015 and are always looking for new ideas and options to raise awareness and funds with individuals, groups and businesses.”

If you can support the charity in any way, you can get in touch at enquiries@mikeysine.co.uk if you would like to work with them or can help get key messages out in local communities.

Since 2015, Mikeysline has offered confidential, non-judgemental support to people of all ages dealing with mental health issues, emotional distress or thoughts of suicide in the Highlands and Moray. It does this via a text line service at 07786 207755; WhatsApp at 01463 729000 and via its website; and live chat, Twitter and Messenger via its website (www.mikeysline.co.uk).

Mikeysline also produces a popular podcast, Speaking of Suicide with Adventurous Audio, and will be launching a new series over the next few weeks.

Darrel Paterson, business development manager and charity champion with Highland News and Media, said: “We are passionate about our communities and our Community Social Responsibility.

“Each year we ask our employees to vote for our charity of the year, and it is with great pride that that Mikeysline will be benefactor from September 2022 to September 2023.

“Given the challenges we have faced over the last few years and with the cost-of-living crisis, it is imperative that charities like Mikeysline get the support they need to be able to be there to offer support for when people need it.”

September 10 is World Suicide Prevention day, and Darrel says everyone at HNM is keen to use this opportunity to raise awarness of the work that Mikeysline does.

He added: “Our team will be working on a series of fundraising events and challenges to support that charity, and we would welcome our readers to join us in supporting them.”

• For more visit the charity's website – or find Mikeysline on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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