Clydesdale charity aims to end mental health stigma

Esteem, a new mental health charity based in Lanark.
Esteem, a new mental health charity based in Lanark.

A small charity based in Lanark is working to end the stigma of mental health problems and to reduce the number of suicides.

Last year, according to Esteem, there were seven officially in Clydesdale and 672 in Scotland, although the true number may be higher.

“It is a minimum of two a day, and there is really no need for any of them, none of them,” said Theresa Elder.

“Men are more at risk. It is the leading cause of death for men aged 15 to 45; I think that is because men are more reluctant to talk.

“We want to prevent suicide, to put things in place so people don’t go that way.”

Esteeem was born out of the closure of the Hope Cafe in Lanark over a year ago.

Theresa and Karen Jackson, both former nurses, had been working with the project and when it closed its Wide Close premises they were encouraged by a volunteer, Grant Seth, to start up the group.

Grant was the driving force, but following his untimely death at the age of only 55 in December, the women have kept going.

In February they were able to register Esteem as a charity, and have ambitious plans to move out of their tiny premises in Greenside Lane into something much larger, hopefully in the High Street.

They have booked stalls for both Lanark Lanimer Day - in Castlebank - and Carluke Gala Day to give out their own and NHS leaflets and let people know of their existence.

Theresa, 56, was a nurse for 32 years, many of them in Hairmyres and Wishaw Hospitals, then she studied for a diploma in psychology and counselling.

“I started while I was still working because I was getting quite ill myself, and trying to figure myself out,” she said.

“Most folk actually do it for that reason, to figure out themselves or someone they love.”

Karen, 54, retired from nursing with a back, problem, then did a degree in complementary therapies. She began working as a volunteer with the Hope Cafe, then was employed on a Caring for Carers project which she ran there.

And when the Hope Cafe closed, she wanted to keep that going.

“I am here on a Wednesday to run a low income support for anyone who cannot afford to go for complementary therapies; the most they will pay is £10,” she said.

And Karen said of Esteem: “I absolutely love it. We are peer support. We have all suffered with mental health problems. I have suffered from depression since I was a teenager.” She also works with nursing students.

Peer support - the 21st century version of a self help group - is the closest these warm women come to using jargon.

There are no “clients” or stakeholders - just “the folk who drop in” any day to their tiny rooms for support when suffering anxiety or depression or other problems.

Esteem also offers cognitive behaviour therapy workshops, and two-day WRAP (wellness recovery action plan) workshops as well as men’s groups and walking groups.

“Our main aim is to reducethe stigma around mental health and reduce suicides,” said Theresa.

And they quoted one of the national charity See Me campaign slogans: “Talking about mental health is the first step to ending discrimination.”

Contact Esteem on 01555 729033.