A grassroots recovery movement and an online mental health group are set to join forces under a new banner to support locals “on a new level”.
Recovery Dundee and Let’s Talk Tayside will come together to form Let’s Talk Recovery, helping those in recovery from addiction with a friendly and supportive social network.
RD co-founder Sharon Brand, LTT founder Ashley Bonini and personal trainer Mikie McCash hope to give those in the throes of recovery newfound physical and mental wellbeing – and a new network of friends.
Sharon co-founded Recovery Dundee in 2016 to give those dealing with addiction a source of hope to combat the associated mental health issues and loneliness that it can bring.
She later brought Mikie on board to provide free fitness sessions for those in recovery.
Ashley, meanwhile, founded Let’s Talk Tayside as an online group in which people could talk about their mental health openly, drawing on her experience as a student mental health nurse.
Since October last year, LTT’s membership has grown to more than 3,700 members.
Sharon said: “For the last seven months Mikie and I have been in touch with Ashley – we know mental and emotional health are very important so it made sense to come together.”
Ashley added: “It’s the missing link – and together we can try to help as many people as we can.”
The merger of the groups comes after the Dundee Drugs Commission published its report into local services in August.
That report, the result of 18 months of evidence gathering, interviews and both public and private meetings, found there was “a lack of mental health support for those who experience problems with drugs”.
As part of its recommendations, the Commission called on health chiefs to merge drug and mental health treatment, essentially treating them as one issue.
Let’s Talk Recovery’s aims are similar but the group is fiercely proud of its independence rooted in the communities that Sharon, Mikie and Ashley have built up.
Much of what the groups do on a day-to-day basis will not change – the “recovery cafe” nights at Beans and Berries will continue, as will Ashley’s organised group walks.
Sharon added: “We’ve got three years of working in the community and our own personal experience of recovery, of physical health, everything – we all have experience in what we’re working with.
“Coming together means strength in numbers and we can reach more people, and be taken more seriously.
“A community from which people can hear how they got off drugs or improved their mental health, that’s what recovery is about – that lived experience.
“You can’t have that if you are stuck in the system – it’s about feeling you can tackle it yourself.”
Mikie said: “Bringing all three of us together is one massive driving force. We all know what to do – we just need people to let us get on with it.
“We’ve tried it, tested it – what I do, what Sharon does, what Ashley does – but this will be on a level not done before.
“If people feel good, they can keep themselves on the right track – and our job is done.”
A firefighter turned personal trainer is poised to launch his next rescue mission – making fitness affordable to all to help combat mental health issues.
Malcolm MacSween has secured new premises in Inverness to deliver activities to help aid those experiencing mental health challenges.
The 44-year-old left the fire service April last year to pursue the opportunity, with ActivNess set to officially open its centre on Canal Road next week.
A lending library is being trialled by the charity, where equipment can be borrowed, allowing people to try new activities without the burden of purchasing the relevant equipment.
A small charity shop at the site will also be available where used sporting equipment and apparel can be bought.
Mr MacSween said: “When I was 13 my mother died and around that time, from my teens to my mid-20s, I suffered from bouts of depression.
“I found that at the times I was training I felt balanced and good but times I wasn’t, I didn’t feel so great, so I think that’s what drew me towards studying towards a sport and exercise degree at Edinburgh Napier.
He added: “I decided we would take part in activities and wanted to vary it so I was actually buying equipment as there was nowhere really to get it, so that’s where the idea of the library came from.
“I wanted to create a location where everyone can have access to equipment and we are using it on a trial basis.”
Mr MacSween added: “We want to act as the gateway service to breaking down barriers that stop people from becoming active. These often involve financial constraints so by providing the library and charity shop we how to ease that burden.
“We also want to provide information on what is available and populate our list with groups and businesses that provide activities in the area, with these groups helping us by providing some free taster sessions, so it works both ways.”
The charity is set to work with local mental health organisations in referring clients to each other, ensuring those who need support and help are put in touch with the relevant people.
Mr MacSween said: “I was totally lost when I was younger and probably could have done with support at that point, but that was 30 years ago and there weren’t the support networks there are now.
“Now, I would like to offer that support, or at least offer the direction that you can get support, be that signpost to an organisation that can help.”
The official opening of the centre will take place next week, where local councillors and Drew Hendry MP are expected to be joined by representatives from local mental health organisations.
BOXER Frank Bruno has spoken of the “shame” he felt after being sectioned for mental health issues and told how “ego” can stop men from seeking help.
Frank Bruno says he felt ‘shame’ after being sectioned for mental health issues
The former heavyweight also said prescription medication made him suicidal. And he compared his battle back to health to fighting an “opponent” in the ring.
He now credits regular exercise and appreciating the simple things in life for restoring his health and bringing him contentment
Frank, 56, was sectioned under the Mental Health Act in 2003 when he suffered a nervous breakdown and twice again in 2012 after concerns over his bipolar disorder.
In a moving interview, Frank said: “Being sectioned, police coming down to my house and an ambulance taking me away. What was going through my mind was shame, all the neighbours know what you’re going through.”
The father-of-four added: “To be able to overcome mental health, you need to take control and have the support of others, too. It’s a man’s ego thing, if someone says go get help, you don’t, you refuse to and you refuse to go to the doctor.
“I can be stubborn. The first thing was me admitting it. The more you keep it in the more you explode when it comes out.
“So, if you’ve got something wrong with you, there are people to see.”
Although he had been struggling before his divorce from wife Laura in 2001 and retirement, a lack of routine and fights to prepare for hit Frank hard.
His life spiralled out of control and his behaviour became unpredictable, suffering hyperactivity and insomnia.
He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and prescribed strong medication, leaving Frank battling the biggest fight of his life.
He said: “Your brain is the most important thing out of anything in your life to look after. The medication they gave me, the side-effects kick in.
“They are filling up people with these [drugs] like zombies. The medication made me suicidal, they mess up your head and you can’t sleep. I’m up walking around, breakdancing, so much energy, like superman, and going in the gym all the time.”
Frank added: “We’re all under pressure…it’s how you handle it. How you really take it in mentally and are strong enough to take the mental opponent on and beat it with your willpower.
“I go to the health club quite a lot. I go there in the gym, use the sauna and go for a swim. I eat healthy food and get the right environment around. That relaxes me.
“Exercising the body makes the mind better. Always look after yourself, watch your diet. You go to the gym, get your heart working, heart rate up, you feel so much better. Physical activity can have a profound impact on your mental well-being.
“Some days you have more energy than others, but you’ve got to learn to survive. You may have a mortgage and you can’t pay the mortgage, you’ve been kicked out of your house, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do and keep ducking and diving.
“I’m content for what I’ve got and I’m grateful for what I’ve got. I used to have more things than now, but I’m grateful now. Having health, physical and mental, gives me contentment.
“As long as I put food on the table and I get out of the house,” he admitted.
“I’ve got some nice suits, got a nice car, but there’s only one suit you can wear, only one car you can drive. So, as long as you’ve got your health, that’s the most fascinating thing. And contentment when you wake up in the morning.”
“Family life is good, everything’s fine, I can’t grumble one little bit. I wake up in the morning and breathe and be happy, just duck and dive. What else can you ask for? I’m grateful.”
Frank now runs The Frank Bruno Foundation, a charity which runs boxing and wellbeing programs to boost mental health among children, young people and adults.
He also paid tribute to fellow charity campaigner Prince Harry, who he has met on a number of occasions “The royal wedding is coming up soon. Prince Harry is a very nice lad. I met the Queen several times.
“I’m a supporter of Prince Harry, he’s done a good job for racial equality and good luck to him. I wish him the best.”
Frank also admits that he suffered racism and bullying during his life.
“I did suffer bullying and racism, but everybody suffers that in some shape or form, but I dealt with it.
“[Bullies] feel brave with their crowd. I’ve been in situations and there’s been a crowd of people chanting different things, but as soon as you confront them one on one they back down.”
Frank’s boxing career ended in 1995, but he remains one of Britain’s best-loved sports stars.
He won 40 out of 45 professional fights and was crowned champion of the world in 1995.
His boxing career may be behind him, but we may see him turn to training boxers instead, hints Frank.
“I’m not making a comeback in the ring, by the way,” said Frank, adding: “I do have my trainer’s licence now.”