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.
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.”
Life “felt hopeless” for Brook Marshall at the tender age of just 17.
He had been thrown into what doctors then thought was depression, triggered by the death of his grandpa, dropped out of high school and began a long stint of unemployment.
Brook’s life continued on a downward spiral as he sampled ten different types of anti-depressants before finding one that worked for him and wrestled with intense mood swings.
The 27-year-old, who lives in the city centre, said: “My behaviour was inconsistent and completely erratic.
“One day I was the happiest person in the world, the next I would spend all day in bed because I was depressed, the next I would be paranoid and suspicious of everyone and not talk to anyone
“Sometimes it wouldn’t even be every day, sometimes it could switch from hour to hour when it was at its most intense.”
The mood swings became unbearable for Brook, to the point where he attempted suicide and was admitted to the Carseview Centre.
Through his own research into mental health, Brook stumbled across a condition called borderline personality disorder and recognised himself.
He said the realisation that he had this condition was like a “light bulb moment” of how he had been feeling his whole life.
An official doctors’ diagnosis soon followed and the appropriate medication has stabilised his behaviour.
Brook said: “I felt like I had been failed by the system.
“I suffered a lot of referral rejections, long waiting lists, my experience at Carseview was extremely negative and I was misdiagnosed for eight years.”
Through Book’s experiences he spotted a gap in the services provided, particularly a lack of peer one-on-one support and a holistic approach to mental health.
This led him to set up Feeling Strong around 18 months ago in an attempt to bridge the gap.
The mental health charity for young people focuses on supporting individuals with all aspects of life instead of solely relying on medication.
It has gone from strength to strength, now with six members of staff, 30 volunteers and ten projects under its belt, including running the Scottish Government’s ASSIST Suicide Prevention program.
And this month Feeling Strong opened a new “one-stop-shop” on Albert Street, where youngsters can access the charity’s services, receive referrals to partnership projects and simply hang out in the chill out zone.
Robbie Matthews, 24, services and impact manager at Feeling Strong, said: “There is a real vacuum when it comes to information and signposting.
“Young people don’t feel like there’s a place they can go for peer to peer support and they often say that mental health professionals don’t understand how they are feeling.
“The hub offers a safe place for them to come together and talk about mental health and to meet other young people who are experiencing similar issues.”
The centre can make referrals to green projects such as organised park walks, gardening and other outdoor activities.
Staff are also organising events such as a short cooking course and gaming events to encourage those with common interests to come together.
For more information see Feeling Strong’s Facebook page or download the app, which can be found by searching Feeling Strong in the app store.
A new mental health charity has received a cash boost to help it start its work with young people.
Feeling Strong has been awarded nearly £3,000 from Business Youth Fund.
The group was set up by Brook Marshall after he identified a gap in support for young people living with mental health problems.
The former Abertay University student president wanted to create positive places where people with mental health issues could hone their skills, boost their confidence and get help to reach their goals.
Currently, Brook and the team of volunteers are running two projects funded by Dundee Youth Fund.
One of its projects is Dundee Can Listen, which puts young people in front of elected officials to talk about their experiences with local services and discuss the impact they have had on their mental health.
The group also has a digital guide with information on the support available.
Potential future projects include school visits and matching young people with role models to show them how they live with mental health illnesses.
Mr Marshall said: “While I was at university, I was involved in campaigning and advocacy and after graduating it was natural that I would continue this type of work.
“I’ve had personal experiences with mental health issues and I felt that there was still a lot that could be done, especially when it came to early intervention.
“I decided that the best way to tackle this was to set up my own charity filling the gaps between NHS services such as counselling. I wanted Feeling Strong to be about improving the lives of people by helping them gain confidence and developing skills which can then lead to employment and living a fuller life in general.”
The charity hopes to work with 200 young people in Dundee and the surrounding areas over the next year before expanding further afield.
Mr Marshall went to Business Gateway to learn skills that would be transferable to running a charity. He learned how to put together an operational plan and gained knowledge of finances, recruitment and tax issues.
“This support has been really important as it allowed me to set up Feeling Strong in the correct manner with a plan to follow in future,” he added.
“I’m really excited about Feeling Strong and it’s by far the best thing I’ve ever done. I hope in future we will be operational throughout Scotland working with a mix of paid staff and volunteers.”
Lynn Maccabe, from Business Gateway Dundee, said: “Although Brook was setting up a charity, essentially they need to have the same skills as any business owner and so we focused our support on areas they will use on a day-to-day basis.
“Knowing how to deal with finances and how to implement plans are crucial for any enterprise and as Feeling Strong grows Brook knows we are on hand to offer additional expertise in new areas.”