A leading mental health charity has said stranded students in Dundee are feeling the biggest strain during lockdown.
Feeling Strong, which offers support to young people who are suffer mental health issues, have said there has been an increase in worries among many in the city.
But, according to Marla Heier, lead volunteer at Feeling Strong, students attending universities in Dundee have been left feeling isolated, with coronavirus restrictions meaning some haven’t seen loved ones in month.
Ms Heier said: “Young people are definitely having increased mental health worries as a result of lockdown.
“Some of the worst affected are students who chose to stay in the city when lockdown began.
“Many believed it would maybe only last for around a month.
“Now we are several months in and for many it has been impossible to leave the city or to go home.
“Some of these students can’t leave Dundee to go to home because their families are shielding or have vulnerable members.
“Other students from foreign countries are also unable to go home and for them the situation is worse because they are so far from their loved ones.”
In January, Feeling Strong opened a community hub in Stobswell aiming to deliver a number of services for the young people of the city.
The hub is also designed to be a one stop shop for those who are indeed of support.
However, throughout lockdown, the base has been closed to its users.
Although unable to physically meet with those struggling, volunteers at Feeling Strong been able to offer counselling online.
Ms Heier said: “We are regularly in touch with some people who have turned to us for help and we have also provided advice and support to people who have come to us even once.
“We can offer peer support but they can also signpost and make referrals to other groups in the city who can also offer to help.”
“Hopefully we are providing a lifeline for young people who may be facing this current crisis alone and feel they have no one else to talk to.”
A female was rescued from the Tay by emergency services late last night.
The woman, who has not been identified, was hauled out of the water close to City Quay just before 11.30pm.
She was transferred to a waiting ambulance. The woman was reported to be very cold but otherwise uninjured.
Emergency services including Police Scotland, Scottish Ambulance Service, Broughty Ferry Lifeboat crew and two coastguard teams from Dundee and Arbroath raced to the scene shortly after the alarm was raised at 10.55pm.
A spokesman for HM Coastguard said they received a call from police saying that a female was in the water just off City Quay.
The spokesman said: “Emergency services, including both Broughty Ferry lifeboats, raced to the scene to the woman’s aid.
“The woman was traced by the RNLI crew and she was pulled on to the inshore lifeboat.
“She was then transferred to a waiting ambulance. She was conscious and breathing but was very cold.”
The Tay rescue is the second in three days for the volunteer Broughty Ferry lifeboat crew.
On Sunday they rescued a woman who was seen to enter the water opposite City Quay and began swimming out into the river.
The woman, who had been overwhelmed by the current, was saved by the crew of Broughty Ferry lifeboat who managed to haul her out of the water just as she was going under.
A spokeswoman for Police Scotland said: “Around 11.10pm on Tuesday, 16 June, police were called to a report of a woman in the River Tay near to City Quay in Dundee.
“The woman was rescued from the water and taken by ambulance to Ninewells Hospital to be checked over then later released.”
He said: “There was a day where I noticed that I was perceiving more things in a sensory way than I usually would, but I was young at the time.
“Over the coming months and years, it became more obvious that these were sensory hallucinations. It took a while for me to realise that the voices were perhaps in my head and they weren’t a radio trapped in the wall that I couldn’t get to.
“It’s really strange to know you’re delusional about certain things but you still can’t shake that belief. There are those phobias and fears that are so incoherent and when I say them out loud and try to explain it to people it can feel like ‘oh my goodness I am actually a crazy person’.
“I can’t shake that feeling but also it’s so logical. Some things are just absolute facts and no matter how much you try to resist them those beliefs just don’t go away.
“As an early teenager, people couldn’t understand my justifications of certain things and I couldn’t understand how they couldn’t see my justifications of things.
“That was the first time I really noticed a difference between my experience and what other people were living.
“I didn’t realise that it was abnormal for a really long time. There was a really long period where I didn’t understand how people were functioning with the same problems that I had.”
Spencer’s book, which combines poetry and prose, has been a work in progress for 18 months, beginning after he made an attempt to take his own life.
“About two years ago I made a suicide attempt and jumped out of a window. I broke my spine and that was kind of the first time I’d ever considered how my mental health could affect other people,” he said.
“That’s a big part of the book – we always think about looking after ourselves with mental health but how do you care about the people who care for you? Because some people got really hurt in the process.
“Around six months after that, when I moved to Manchester, I was speaking to a friend who had been affected really badly by my mental health. I decided that, for the first time, I really wanted to make positive moves to try and change myself so I started writing the book.”
An encounter with Dundee-based author Tina McGuff, who wrote a memoir about her recovery from anorexia, was key in Spencer’s decision to share his story.
“She made me believe how honest we need to be with our mental health. It’s great talking about ending stigmatisation but the only way to do that is to actually educate and speak, which is really what I wanted to do,” he added.
“Over those 18 months I focused on writing, developing poems and trying to rack my brain for everything that other people might not know about schizoaffective disorders, even if it may be obvious to me.
“I tried to Google for some self-help books to see if there was anything about coping mechanisms. There were quite a lot of stories and information but there wasn’t really anything about how you live it and how you can function alongside it, rather than recover from it.
“You have to learn to make it a part of your life and accept that, which is what the main premise of the book became; how to make this as accessible to people who would have absolutely no understanding of the situation.
“When you meet someone in the street you have no idea about their background or their daily life or how difficult it might be for them to keep up with the same routine as you.”
The book, which was published on Sunday, is currently ranked number one in new releases for poetry books on Amazon.
He said: “The initial reaction was really beautiful. The amount of messages I’ve received and support from people that I would never have expected has been amazing.”
Spencer is now looking to the future and is hopeful for what a post-lockdown world looks like.
“I’m currently not taking any medication, I prefer to try and just live my best life as I can with the tools that I have,” he said.
“I’m definitely in a better place now than I was two years ago in terms of my mental health but it doesn’t mean that those problems are gone, it just means I have better coping mechanisms.
“I can definitely make it through the next months but I think it’s going to be a mixed bag.
“I would like to stress, particularly in quarantine, the importance of looking after yourself and making sure that the people you love are OK.
“It’s a really difficult time. Humans need to look after each other, we can’t be selfish right now.”
The success of a new approach to supporting mental health issues in Dundee has been hailed as a national success.
Making Recovery Real, which has been trialed in Dundee, brings people who have battled mental health challenges together with professionals, to decide the best support to offer in the city.
Participants from Making Recovery Real in Dundee traveled to Edinburgh to speak at a Scottish Recovery Network about how the scheme works.
They premiered a short film showing how people with experience of mental health issues could give their perspective on what helped them and go on to offer support to others.
It is hoped that the project will be adapted by communities across Scotland looking for a new approach to developing and accessing mental health support.
One of the service users, Rona Foy, said working with people who had similar experiences helped her see how the group could help her and she is now supporting others.
“I saw other people flourish that were on the group and they started to become more confident and wanted to help other people.
“It has given me lots of different opportunities and it has just been great.
“I am going to be facilitating a peer to peer course myself after doing on which is exciting and I just think it’s so worthwhile.”
The participants worked with professionals from Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership, NHS Tayside, Dundee City Council and Dundee Volunteer and Voluntary Action (DVVA), among others.
Ruth Brown, team leader of mental health engagement and involvement at DVVA and chairwoman of the Making Recovery Real partners group said: “Our work with Scottish Recovery Network has been transformational for individuals who live with mental health challenges, for mental health organisations, and for our strategic planning and delivery mechanisms in the city.
“It enabled us to work more effectively together, to make better decisions, to keep lived experience at the centre of all we do, to maintain our focus on recovery and to invest in growing peer support.”
Dundee’s youth mental health charity, Feeling Strong, has opened its new community hub in Stobswell.
It aims to deliver a number of services for the young people of the city and the hub is also designed to be a one-stop-shop for those who have mental health challenges.
Among the services available to youngsters are an area to chill out and escape the pressures of day-to-day life, plus the chance to learn about services for more help and referrals to other organisations.
There are also opportunities, depending on the young person’s specific needs, such as counselling, support with employability plus education and access to other mental health activities available in Dundee.