Tributes have flooded in for a talented Dundee junior footballer who has tragically passed away.
Downfield FC player Ryan Blair, 25, was found dead in the morning on Hogmanay.
His mum Tracey Samson has paid tribute, describing the dad-of-one as “football daft”.
She added: “Football and his family were his world.”
The huge Glasgow Rangers fan was considered one of the best defenders at junior level in the city.
Hundreds of people who knew Ryan have spoken of their shock and sadness after hearing the news.
The jovial left-back played for various sides in the city including Broughty Athletic, Lochee United, and most recently Downfield.
His former clubs have paid tribute to the self-employed steel fixer who worked alongside brother Paul.
Friend Sean Donaldson, who is the club photographer and social media manager at Broughty Athletic, said Ryan was the “cheeky guy in the team”.
Sean, 47, said: “He was always up for a laugh. He was the guy tripping people up and throwing balls at the back of his team mate’s heads.
“He had such a great smile and was likeable and lovable. He was just such a great young laddie.
“He had his whole life ahead of him and will be tragically missed.”
He added Ryan was “probably the best left back in the city” at junior level.
“He should have been professional. I remember when he signed for us. The manager at Broughty, Keith Gibson, spotted his potential when he was playing for NCR Amateurs.
“He made the jump up and was just such a natural footballer. We knew straight away we had one of the hottest properties.”
Downfield Juniors paid tribute online, saying: “All at Downfield JFC are devastated to hear the sad news of defender Ryan Blair passing away. Although not long with the club Ryan became a treasured team mate and friend of all at the club. Our thoughts are with Ryan’s family.”
A spokesperson for Lochee United added: “Everyone at Lochee United are devastated to hear of the sudden passing of former player Ryan Blair.
“Ryan was a well respected teammate and friend to everyone associated with the club. Our thoughts are with his family at this extremely sad time. RIP Ryan…Thanks for the memories.”
He leaves behind mum Tracey, girlfriend Becky Wilson, six-year-old daughter Ava, brother Paul, and sisters Ellis and Grace.
He also leaves behind many friends at his former clubs including close pals Kevin Milne and Greig McNaughton.
He attended Brackens Primary School and St Paul’s RC Academy.
A Dundee youth mental health charity has launched a new peer coaching and listening service.
Feeling Strong has set up its new service to meet the developing needs of young people in the city, providing a safe space for young people to talk about their mental challenges, as well as any other issues they may be facing.
Peer Coach Errin Mathieson said “We’re so excited to launch this new service, and ensuring we’re equipped to help any young person as best we can.
“We hope to promote the exploration and embracing of challenges, with our carefully tailored service assisting in successful recovery and positive destinations for all who come to our doorstep.”
Developed by young people, for young people, the service is for anyone aged 12 to 26 that lives, works, or studies in Dundee.
They are open Wednesdays from 1.30pm to 5.30pm.
Anyone interested in speaking to a member of the charity’s peer coaching staff can click here for a referral form.
In-roads are being made after a controversial report outlined mental health provision in the city, say officials.
Latest data – published by the Scottish Social Services Council – revealed six exclusive mental health officers (MHOs) were employed across the region
As a result, Dundee City Council used nine other MHOs to provide cover in 2019.
Cover MHOs are determined as social workers who step in when no exclusive or non-exclusive MHOs are available.
“The amount of MHO work, if any, they do each week tends to be very small. They are very unlikely to have the job title Mental Health Officer,” the report added.
Fife, in comparison, had 14 exclusive MHOs and 29 non-exclusive MHOs.
Phil Welsh, whose son Lee took his own life in 2017, said the report was very disappointing.
“Considering that Dundee is the suicide capital of Europe this report is damning and shocking,” he said.
Phil, who is campaigning for a new mental health crisis centre, added: “Six dedicated MHO’s to cover a city with the highest suicide rate in mainland Scotland, is desperately inadequate.”
He added: “Dundee, the fourth largest city in Scotland is way down in the stats.
“Once again we have empirical evidence that Dundee is not being supported sufficiently when it comes to the recruitment, training and retention of mental health professionals.”
Dundee Labour councillor Richard McCready said the report showed there was a clear need to improve mental health services in Dundee.
He said: “Instead of an integrated approach we have a confused and patchy service.”
John Alexander said the report was eight months out of date – and when a current vacancy was filled, a full quota of 16 MHOs would be in place.
Three people were currently in training and would be added to the team “hopefully within a matter of months,” he added.
A Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership spokesman said: “Since the data was collected there has been a positive impact in this area of work due to an increase in capacity within the Mental Health Officer team, this has put us in a better position to meet demand.
“Our Mental Health Officers can and do provide out of hours services through contact from out of hours.”
The SSSC report also revealed a total of 249 weekly hours were spent on MHO work in Dundee compared to 334 in Aberdeen, 276 in Angus and 278 in Perth and Kinross.
And Dundee fared worse than 13 other local authority areas in Scotland for the number of mental health care hours it offers residents, with 16.7 hours per 10,000 of the population.
The Scottish average is 20.5 hours. In comparison Edinburgh has 19.6, Angus 23.7, and Glasgow city 17.2.
A Dundee filmmaker has released a short online video aimed at helping men in the city open up about their mental health battles.
“Mind Yersel” is a short, three minute film by 21-year-old, Bonnie MacRae, and explores the devastating topic of male suicide in the city – which has the highest rate in Scotland.
“I watched first hand how suicide can affect a family, I’ve dealt with depression myself and then I came across an article saying Dundee was Scotland’s suicide capital and it wasn’t something that I was willing to just accept,” Bonnie said.
“When I first had the idea to turn the piece into a short film, I knew I wanted it to be totally about Dundee.”
The film features a small cast who all hail from the City of Discovery, something which Bonnie felt was pivotal to the project.
She added: “Every person featured in the film is born and bred Dundee, and that was really important to me.
“Real boys in Dundee need to see themselves represented in the media, they need to know that they’re not alone in feeling a certain way. I have a younger brother and wanted him to watch it and see a little bit of himself in the film.”
The young filmmaker, who is from Broughty Ferry, was also full of praise for the film’s leading man, who narrated the short video and also appeared on camera throughout.
“Stephen McMillan features and I think he’s totally done both Dundee and the topic justice,” Bonnie said.
“He was on board with the film as soon as he read the script having personally experienced similar issues. He genuinely inspires me and I’m so lucky to have had him involved, Dundee should be proud of him.
“I think it’s had such a big impact already because of how close to home it hits. People watch and see someone opening up who speaks the same way they do, who walks the same streets as them – that was imperative.
Bonnie hopes that through watching the video, people of all ages and backgrounds in the city will be encouraged to seek help if they are struggling and hopefully save lives.
She added: “This film isn’t me preaching on how to cure depression, but I hope that in making the film I’ve started a long overdue conversation that needed to be had in Dundee.”
A former health board chief has sparked fury by suggesting a landmark inquiry into mental health services should not have gone ahead because it held up work to improve care.
Crawford Reid, former chairman of the Perth and Kinross integrated joint board (IJB), believes the independent inquiry “completely screwed” plans to redesign local mental health facilities.
The inquiry, led by former prisons governor David Strang, strongly criticised what it described as a loss of “trust and respect” in local psychiatric services.
But Dr Reid believes the launch of the inquiry – at the behest of the bereaved families of suicide victims – has set progress back in Tayside by two years.
The redesign was signed off in January 2018 by Perth and Kinross IJB, which is in charge of inpatient mental health services, but was put on hold following the inquiry’s interim report in May last year.
Ahead of an NHS meeting to discuss a proposed action plan on mental health tomorrow (Thursday), Dr Reid said: “Several aspects of the inquiry report give me great concern. (Ex-chair and ex-chief executive) John Brown and Malcolm Wright came in at a time when Tayside was in a dysfunctional shape – it was a knee-jerk reaction.
“I’m not minimising how ruinous suicide is but what’s happened is the mental health transformation programme has been basically put on hold.
“If the transformation programme had started to move in, things would have improved with a full complement of consultants.
“They completely screwed it.”
Relatives of those who took their own lives after engaging with local mental health services have criticised Dr Reid’s comments as poorly considered.
“There have been ample opportunities for genuine change with regards to mental health services in Tayside over the years given the sheer volume of investigations and horror stories.
“Nothing was changing hence why I, and others campaigned for this inquiry.
“Perhaps if these fantastic changes that are being proposed had actually been implemented years ago, lives would have been saved and there would have been no need for an inquiry.”
She added: “I feel yet again that we, the bereaved families who campaigned tirelessly for change, are being used as a scapegoat for the never-ending list of failures.”
Mandy McLaren, who lost her son Dale Thomson to suicide in 2015, said: “The redesign was in the interim report, and it did say it should be halted.
“The matter with him is he doesn’t want to take any responsibility for the part they all played in allowing these failures and allowing these deaths.”
Following a near-two-year investigation, the Independent Inquiry issued 51 recommendations on February 5.
Witnesses who gave accounts to the inquiry described how the transformation programme appeared to be little more than an asset management plan to save money.
However, Dr Reid believes that, with time, the programme could have gradually reintroduced localised care at facilities such as the Mulberry Unit in Angus, which was mothballed in 2017 despite being only despite being opened in 2011.
He also believes independent case reviews should have been held for each person who dies after engaging with mental health services.
“If you look at each and every recommendation there’s not one that moves the process of improving mental health services in Tayside one inch forward,” he added.
“Not one of those 51 recommendations, without the transformation programme going on, will improve anything.
“The transformation programme had no time to bed in and move forward – if it had been allowed to develop the situation would have been fantastic compared to what it was two years ago.
“It’s not perfect but it’s far better than what we’ve been left with at this time. The sooner it gets put back on the boiler the better.
“Without a shadow of a doubt, this inquiry should not have gone ahead.”
NHS Tayside and the independent inquiry have been contacted for comment.
“We really need to work with staff to fix mental health”
Renewed calls have been made by NHS staff representatives for health bosses to work with them to improve mental health services in Tayside following the publication of the Strang report.
Jenny Alexander, employee director at NHS Tayside and a Unison rep, said the 51 recommendations were unlikely to be met unless staff were on board with the health board’s plans
She warned that actions could not be rushed through in the way the mental health transformation programme was perceived to be by some observers in 2018.
She told a meeting of Dundee’s health and social care partnership board (HSCP) yesterday: “The partnership aspect of this is very, very important.
“If we are running off and doing things like in 2018 we’re not going to do anything differently.
“We really need to start working in partnership with staff-side – if we don’t have staff on side we will never get through those 51 recommendations.
“We need to make sure we have improvements done for these people that we’re caring for.”
The independent inquiry found that staff reported feeling disrespected and undervalued by senior colleagues.
One mental health staffer described the atmosphere in mental health services as “a culture of fear”.
Arlene Mitchell, Dundee HSCP locality manager, says actions have already been taken in response to the inquiry.
These include the creation of new senior mental health posts, a new process for investigating adverse events and a plan to improve better support for those leaving mental health inpatient services.
Ms Mitchell said: “From a Dundee perspective, we’re in a good position…to ensure a strong staff partnership approach.
“We feel there’s a need to strengthen some of the staff partnership activity.”