A Fife director is hoping to release a new film with a focus on coping with depression over the festive season in time for Christmas 2019.
‘Cold’, which has been written and produced by Kirkcaldy film maker Gavin Hugh, is being filmed in locations across Kirkcaldy, Stirling, Edinburgh and Aviemore, with two days of filming already in the can.
It is a huge personal undertaking for Gavin, who has previously worked for STV and Sky News and has been running his own Kirkcaldy-based video production business, MidgieBite Media, since late 2017 while also working part time at the Scottish Parliament as an assistant to Dundee City East MSP Shona Robison.
However, with the production funded through goodwill and his own pocket so far, Gavin and his team plans to launch a crowdfunding campaign early this year to help finish the film and release it in winter 2019.
“For a lot of us, Christmas is a happy time of year where we can celebrate and put all of our troubles to one side but for people suffering with depression it can be incredibly difficult to do that,” Gavin explained.
“We focus on how the pressure of trying to take part in the festivities and putting on a brave face just isn’t something that can be easily switched on and off in time with the days on a calendar.
“Taking care of your own mental health is easy to overlook. I’ve had my own issues with anxiety over the years, and some of the people that I’m closest to in my life have suffered from depression.
“Mental health issues can be challenging not just for the individual but for the people around them who are trying to offer support.
“As this film is drawing on a lot of personal experiences, it’s really important for me that our film gives an honest portrayal of these issues.
“While there’s an increasing awareness of mental health issues in mainstream society, we’re really hoping that the film can help encourage people to still be mindful of them at this time of year.”
Gavin has been involved in a lot of local film projects over the years, particularly with horror filmmakers Hex Media, and has recently been working closely with Robbie Davidson on his upcoming World War Two epic ‘Dick Dynamite’.
Most of the primary cast for Cold are Fifers, including Andrew Gourlay, Hana Mackenzie, Craig Seath and Iain Leslie, as are most of the technical crew.
Lead actress Rowan Birkett, a friend of Gavin’s from student days at Stirling University, has been travelling up from Ambleside in England to take part, while Dundee is also represented in Grant R Keelan, a city-based photographer who acts in the film as well as working in the technical team.
“It’s genuinely been great to work with so many talented local artists,” he added.
More details about the crowdfunding campaign will be announced in due course, and the plan is to hold a premiere of the new film in Kirkcaldy later in the year.
Tay Road Bridge chiefs have pledged to tackle the rising number of emergency incidents reported on the crossing after admitting they are “nowhere near where we need to be” on the issue.
Data analysis taken from the bridge’s official twitter account shows an annual rise in reports of police call outs, from 21 in 2016, 23 in 2017, to a peak of 28 this year.
Many of the closures are due to people attempting to harm themselves on the span.
Officials pledged at the start of 2018 to probe whether anything could be done to reduce the number of incidents on the route after campaigners pointed to similar efforts being made in cities around the world.
Stewart Hunter, chairman of the road bridge board, revealed his team have looked at ways of making physical alterations to the crossing but found no structural change could be made without compromising its integrity.
He said: “From my point of view, one person on the bridge is one too many so any trend showing the numbers increasing would be worrying. However, even if it was decreasing, I would still be concerned for those individuals.
“There are a number of reasons why the numbers have increased and mental health is part of it. I think it would be irresponsible to focus on one aspect and ignore others.
“The Scottish Government, Dundee City Council and our partners are working hard to tackle this issue and make sure the people who need help get it. But obviously, there is still a long way to go and we are nowhere near where we need to be.
“As far as what is the best way to tackle the increase, we need to make sure that individuals have all the support they need long before it gets to the stage where they are on the bridge. That is where we will actually make the difference.”
Mr Hunter paid tribute to the “unsung heroes” working on the bridge who respond immediately when emergency incidents are reported.
Figures obtained from the twitter account show motorists were subjected to 132 days of disruption on the bridge this year for police and other incidents, such as roadworks, breakdowns and closures due to high winds.
It appears March’s Beast from the East weather disruption had a significant impact on traffic with the month seeing 18 days impacted by delays, more than any other in 2018.
Mr Hunter said: “We have a planned programme of maintenance and the increase this year is just about where we are in the maintenance cycle. The bridge is inspected regularly and any issues found are fixed very quickly.”
Suicide rates in Dundee are higher than any other city council area in Scotland, according to a new report.
The Scottish Suicide Information Database also shows that men accounted for three-quarters of suicides across Tayside in the last seven years.
According to the report, there were 164 deaths caused by suicide in Dundee with an average of 16.7 per 100,000 population between 2011 and 2017.
Angus along with Perth and Kinross Councils recorded 98 and 126 suicides respectively.
For Tayside as a whole, 388 suicides were recorded with an average per 100,000 population of 14.1.
Men were more likely to take their own lives, with the rates across Scotland highest among those aged 35-54 and in deprived areas.
Nearly three-quarters of those who died had contact with healthcare services in the year before their death.
An inquiry is currently under way into NHS Tayside’s mental health services after a number of concerns surrounding the Carseview Centre.
Phil Welsh, whose 28-year-old son Lee took his own life last year, said the latest statistics were “damning”.
He said: “It’s clear that there’s a situation here that isn’t working.
“I think the fact there is an inquiry shows there’s something amiss.
“Mental health is a discussion point now but it’s all well talking, we need support for people afterwards and that is why we badly need a crisis centre.”
A spokeswoman from NHS Health Scotland said: “National suicide prevention programmes need to incorporate a comprehensive public health approach which seeks to reduce stigma, improve mental wellbeing in the whole population and address the underlying causes of poor mental health.”
The Dundee Fighting for Fairness report summarises how key issues affecting people in city are being tackled.
It was launched at the Steeple Church following months of research by the Fairness Commission, whose members met with people and families struggling to get by.
Among the recommendations are creating a single access point for all financial advice services in the city, preparing positive, anti-poverty messages and helping frontline staff including GP surgeries to raise awareness of the impact of poverty on mental health.
John Alexander, leader of Dundee City Council and chairman of the Dundee Partnership, said: “People and money, mental health and stigma are three of the main themes we are looking at because they have featured in all of the stories we have heard.
“We know that far too much poverty that exists in the city and this is one way to target some of the root causes of that – by involving people with real-life experience.”
Another recommendation aimed at tackling issues with mental health in the city is to create a 24/7 drop-in service offering clinical, non-clinical, therapeutic and peer support.
The commission had found that people reach crisis point outside normal working hours and cannot self-refer for support when they need it most. It was also found that services did not always treat people in poverty with respect.
The partnership recommended that guidance materials are developed to allow service providers to recruit and train staff with the right values.
On December 12, the recommendations will be presented to Aileen Campbell, Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government.
The Scottish government has ordered a review of mental health services for young people in custody.
It follows recent deaths at Polmont Young Offenders Institution.
Sixteen-year-old William Lindsay died while on remand there in October and 21-year-old Katie Allan took her life in June while detained for a drink-driving offence.
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said the review would involve a mental health expert and HM Inspectorate of Prisons.
The review is expected to report back early next year.
It will look at mental health provision for young people entering custody, including background information ahead of their admission, reception arrangements, and ongoing support and supervision while in custody.
Mr Yousaf announced the review in a letter to the Scottish Parliament’s justice and health committees.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has also confirmed that NHS Forth Valley has already engaged with the Scottish Prison Service to assess and increase provision for people living at Polmont.
In his letter, Mr Yousaf said that although fatal accident inquiries would be undertaken into the deaths of William Lindsay (also known as William Brown) and Katie Allan “I have reflected on some of the more immediate questions raised particularly around the provision of mental health support and services for young people in custody”.
He said the review would look at relevant operational policies, practice and training and where practical, would also look at comparisons between the support and arrangements in place in secure care accommodation and HMP&YOI Polmont.
He added: “As with current formal inspection and independent monitoring arrangements for prisons, the review will include direct engagement with young people in custody about their experiences.
“The review will not consider the specific circumstances of recent cases which are the subject of current or future mandatory fatal accident inquiries.
“We are also aware of issues being raised about the information that is available about a young person’s history before decisions are taken that can lead to them being sent to custody or secure care. Separate consideration is being given to how best to look at these issues.”
Ms Allan, a 21-year-old geography student at Glasgow University, was convicted in March of a drink-driving offence which saw her injure a pedestrian and she was sentenced to 16 months in jail.
Stuart and Linda Allan said their daughter was bullied in Polmont YOI near Falkirk and lost more than 80% of her hair due to the state of her mental health. She died there in July.
They had called for a review of the Scottish prison system.
Mr Lindsay, who was also known as William Brown, was one of four deaths in the space of two days at Scottish jails last month.
An entry on the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) website states he was remanded at Glasgow Sheriff Court on Thursday 4 October.
He died on Sunday 7 October.
Lawyer Aamer Anwar, representing the families of Ms Allan and Mr Brown, said they cautiously welcomed the announcement of a review.
“The deaths of Katie and William were never inevitable, the system and the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) failed them,” he said.
“The families of Katie Allan and William Lindsay expect and demand a lot more to happen in the days and weeks ahead.
“Today is a good start, but the families hold Polmont responsible for suicides which took place, ultimately they failed in their duty of care.
“If this review is independent then the families wait to see the proof of that as they must be fearless in the questions they ask.”
The number of university students in Scotland seeking support for mental health issues has increased by two-thirds over five years, analysis shows.
The BBC asked universities across Scotland for the numbers of students seeking some form of support.
It found more than 11,700 students asked for help in 2016-17 compared with about 7,000 in 2012-13.
The 68% increased among students in Scotland was higher than the 53% total for the UK over the same period.
University counsellors and wellbeing staff told BBC Scotland that they deal with cases ranging from anxiety, depression, gender-based violence and body dysmorphia.
The figures – obtained by the BBC’s Shared Data Unit through freedom of information requests – showed that only 12 of Scotland’s 19 universities recorded how many students sought help for their health help over the five-year period.
The data shows:
The number of students seeking help for their mental health at the University of Edinburgh doubled over five years
The University of Glasgow experienced a 75% rise in students seeking help for their mental health between 2012-13 and 2016-17
The University of Stirling had a 74% rise in students seeking help for their mental health between 2012-13 and 2016-17
Glasgow School of Art experienced a 72% increase in students seeking help for their mental health over the same period
‘Not being able to return the favour had a toll on me’
Connor Smith was in his third year studying computer games development at the University of the West of Scotland when his close friend, who was also a student, took his own life.
“I was really shook up and didn’t know what to do with myself,” he said.
“I had struggled with my mental health before but the person who took his life was able to help me out of that, so not being able to return the favour had a toll on me.”
The university’s counselling team quickly offered to help Connor.
“I couldn’t speak to my family because I felt like I was burdening them,” he said.
“I couldn’t speak to my close friends either because they were going through the same thing.”
Connor said that he was struggling not only with the death of his friend but also his future prospects.
He said: “One evening I sat down and thought ‘what am I doing?’.
“I forced myself to work at university but I wasn’t in a good mind space. I really wasn’t enjoying what I was doing.”
Connor said he did not know what would have come of his life had it not been for the university’s support.
He said: “I wouldn’t have done so well.
“I might’ve quit university and if I did that, I don’t know what I would be doing.
“I had nothing lined up as a fall-back.”
Connor returned to counselling for a second time during his final year of studying. He was struggling with stress, overeating and had money worries.
He said: “[The support] wasn’t immediately available like before but, when I did get it, being able to speak to someone was so helpful.
“University was the best stretch of my life but easily the lowest I have been as well.”
‘I don’t like the term snowflake’
Ronnie Millar, director of counselling at the University of Edinburgh, said there is a “pernicious perfectionism” among students, which can affect their mental health.
He said: “When I was at university, there were no fees and we had student grants.
“Nowadays, more students have to work in part-time jobs and study, which puts a lot of pressure on them to succeed.”
Mr Millar said it was not helpful to label young people seeking help with terms such as snowflake, which imply they are less resilient than previous generations and too emotionally vulnerable.
He said: “I don’t like the term snowflake. I think it is a pejorative.
“In terms of resilience, some students struggle more than previous generations – but that’s not pointing the finger of blame.”
Mr Millar said that while there’s been a doubling in the male students coming forward for help for their mental health, the “proportion” has stayed the same over the five-year period.
“We say to students that [counselling] is not activity just for women, it’s for everyone.”
Social media bubble
Dr Phil Quinn, head of counselling and psychological services at the University of Glasgow, said that while there was greater awareness of the help available, a “saturated” NHS had resulted in fewer community services for students to access mental health support.
He said: “We have had a record year in terms of referrals to the service, of students starting their university careers with already diagnosed mental health conditions.”
The University of Glasgow employed 20 staff in 2016-17 – ranging from cognitive behavioural therapists and a consultant psychiatrist to a counselling manager – to assist with the 2,330 students that came forward that year.
Quinn believes that staff numbers are sufficient to meet demand, and that the increase in students coming forward for help is partly down to a “24-hour social media bubble” where they are exposed to “criticism, bullying, and abuse”.
Jackie Main, who is the director of student life at Glasgow Caledonian University, said it was not just the volume of students seeking support that was increasing but the complexity of the issues they presented with.
“We see a lot more crisis students than before,” she said.
“That could mean a student is actively self-harming, threatening suicide or requires being sectioned or hospitalised.
“Crisis students experience severe emotional distress, including panic attacks.”
At Glasgow Caledonian University, the number of students seeking support in 2016-17 hit 661, up 69% since 2012-13.
Ms Main added: “Anxiety and depression are the two big issues we’ve see increases in.
“We are not a crisis support service. We don’t have the resource and it is not our job. But we don’t let students fall through the net.”
Eight of Scotland’s universities provided the BBC with their total budgets for mental health services – which in some cases included services that don’t just support student mental health, such as a disability service – in the five years to 2016-7.
It revealed an increase of 31% from £2.4m to £3.1m.
The University of Strathclyde (which did not provide complete figures for the number of students seeking help between 2012-13 and 2016-17) was the only institution to report a decrease in its overall budget over the five year period, down by 18%.
A spokeswoman for the university put the drop down to “re-structuring” and emphasised that significant investment – about £400,000 – had been made since 2017, including the creation of three full-time and 12 part-time posts on the mental health and wellbeing teams.
She said: “We have also introduced an online mental health support programme, which works hand-in-hand with our dedicated advisers and therapists, to ensure support is available for all.”
‘Finding out you’ve failed all your classes is horrible’
Hannah Moles was in her third year of studying maths at the University of Strathclyde when she approached student services for help.
Not only had she failed her first set of exams but she was also caring for her grandmother who had dementia.
She said: “My brother and I were going over three times a week to make my gran dinner, get the shopping and keep her company.
“She was really lonely.”
Hannah said that when she wasn’t caring for her gran, working in a part-time job which paid for her flat, or sleeping, she’d be in the library trying to study.
“I was really tired and had things on my mind constantly,” she said.
“So I went along to support services to see if I could calm myself down. I wanted to improve my mental state before my next set of exams.”
Hannah said that eight weeks after approaching student services, she received her first counselling appointment.
However, by this point Hannah had failed her second round of exams – meaning she wouldn’t be allowed to return for the fourth year of her degree.
“Finding out you’ve failed all your classes is horrible especially when you have put in the work but it is still not enough,” she said.
Hannah said that she was grateful to her university for providing mental health support but more counsellors would help meet the increasing demand.
“I am lucky that I got the support I needed,” she said.
“But there are lots of students who seem to need help with their mental health. I just hope that universities can keep up with the increasing demand.”
’80 new counsellors’
The Scottish government’s most recent Programme for Government promised to provide more than 80 additional counsellors in further and higher education institutions over the next four years, with an investment of about £20m.
However, there is no indication yet how the funding will be split or which universities will receive more counsellors.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said every student “should have access to emotional and mental well-being support”.
“We will work closely with the university and college sectors, NUS Scotland and other partners, on the implementation of the additional counsellors, and to ensure an integrated and wrap-around approach to student wellbeing in higher and further education.”
Details of organisations offering information and support with mental health issues are available at bbc.co.uk/actionline, or you can call for free, at any time to hear recorded information on 0800 888 809.