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.
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.
Mental heath services in the city are “among the worst in Scotland” according to one patient who feels she is being failed by the system.
Lynsey-Jane Gray, who suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder and depression, has received care for her mental health struggles in other cities across Scotland in the past.
But since moving to the city two years ago, Ms. Gray has been left dismayed by the service provided to people here – prompting her to speak out about her concerns.
She said: “I have lived in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Stirling and had excellent assistance, but I have never experienced anything like Dundee.
“There is no community psychiatric team and I have only been seen by the current team once or twice since I moved here. When you compare to the bi-weekly treatment I was receiving in Stirling, it’s abysmal.”]
Lynsey-Jane said that consistency was vital in helping cope with mental illness, but she has claimed she has rarely seen the same consultant twice during her time living the city.
“I never see the same psychiatrist twice and this exacerbates my condition she explained.
The city centre resident pointed to figures released earlier this year that showed that nine people per 100,000 people in Dundee have committed suicide in the last five years, claiming it’s evidence the system is failing people.
She said: “Dundee has the highest suicide rate in Scotland and it’s not difficult to see why when you look at the service that is available.
“There’s not enough practitioners, it’s going to put people off asking for help.”
Lyndsey-Jane said she tried to phone her doctor’s surgery more than 100 times before she was able to get through to the receptionist to book an appointment.
“My partner and I were on the phone simultaneously trying to reach them. I had phoned 131 times and he phoned around 20,” she said.
“By the time I got through, the response was ‘what is wrong with you today?’ What if someone was severely suicidal and wanting an appointment? It’s awful practice.”
The service provided to Dundonians is so bad that Lynsey-Jane claims she would have second thoughts about moving to the city if she had known about the level of care she would be able to access here.
The admin worker said: “There are many people out there, like me, who have complex psychiatric conditions that require regular support and Dundee is not providing this.
“If I had known it was like this, I would have perhaps decided against moving here.”
For Lynsey-Jane, the problem with the mental health provisions in the city lies with what she sees as a lack of funding and she believes those who are struggling are being let down.
The 29-year-old added: “The city seems so focused on the gentrification of itself that vulnerable people are being left behind.
“There is not enough practitioners in Dundee and you have to ask if they are doing enough to attract them to city.
“I have received care from Carseview also and the team have been brilliant but you can see they are stretched.”
A spokeswoman for Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership said: “Due to patient confidentiality we cannot discuss matters relating to individual patients.
“Community mental health services in Dundee offer a range of support to people experiencing challenges with their mental health and emotion wellbeing.
“A variety of specialist staff work within our community mental health services ranging from psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, dietitians, speech and language therapists, mental health officers, social workers, peer support workers and a range of other support workers.
“Following an initial assessment an individual may be offered ongoing support from a range of professionals to best meet their needs.
“Patients requiring specialist mental health input may be referred to their local community mental health team based at Alloway Centre or Wedderburn House.
“Anyone who requires to be seen more quickly then can get an urgent or emergency referral to the Crisis Resolution and Home Treatment Team (CRHTT).”
Controversial Carsview Centre has come in for more criticism after a barrage of complaints by former patients.
A number of former patients have contacted the Tele following reports of a death at the centre and criticised their treatment.
Now MSP Monica Lennon is calling for a probe into the claims.
She said: “It’s clear that there is something deeply wrong at Carseview and that NHS Tayside is failing to rebuild public trust and confidence in crisis mental health care.”
“These are very serious allegations and the former patients who have come forward should be commended for their courage.
“This is not an easy thing to do and they must get the right support if they decide to formalise their complaints. The Health Secretary wake up to what is happening and take urgent action.”
Meanwhile, two more ex-patients have come forward to voice their concern at the conditions they endured during spells in the centre.
One man, aged 52, from Dundee, said: “There should be some kind of inquiry.
“Are they waiting until someone dies or is seriously hurt before they are going to act?
“I was in Carseview back in 2013 for three weeks after a breakdown and was basically made to feel like a prisoner when I was escorted about the place.
“There seems to be no management structure in place. You get a little brown pill, or a little blue pill to calm you down. But you hardly meet any doctors and after you do then there is no follow up.
“You are like a case study, a guinea pig.
“You are brought in, escorted to your room and then the journey begins down hill.”
He added: “There is no segregation so there are patients who are psychotic mixing with others who are suicidal and others who have had a slight breakdown. It’s not right and it is time someone stepped in and did something about it.
“I actually made an official complaint when all my clothes that had been brought in disappeared. Nobody could find them and I kept complaining and tried to phone them up but they said they were too busy, or I just got fobbed off with emails and nothing much happened.
And another ex-patient from Dundee, a 60-year-old man, said he was admitted four times as a voluntary patient after feeling suicidal.
He said: “I witnessed lots of things going on that were wrong. And one time I saw four male staff who were trained, pinned down a young girl and stick a needle into her thigh.
“There should be a full investigation into what has been going on.”
NHS Tayside said it was unable to comment on individual cases, but urged former patients with complaints to contact them.
Health chiefs say a controversial shake-up of psychiatric services across Tayside is being hampered by “significant workforce challenges” – exactly as opponents predicted more than a year ago.
NHS Tayside pressed ahead with its planned review in January, despite concerns that many staff would be unwilling or unable to make the move to new cities.
Under the scheme, leading disability inpatient services will be provided at Murray Royal Hospital, Perth, while services are being transferred out of the Mulberry unit at Stracathro Hospital near Brechin and general adult psychiatry acute admissions centralised in Dundee
However, members of the Perth and Kinross Integration Joint Board have now been told that the majority of staff – around 55% – are unable to move for a variety of reasons.
At a meeting on Tuesday, Gordon Paterson, chief officer of the Perth and Kinross Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “The progress of implementing the redesign programme has been slow and that is partly because of some of the significant workforce challenges, in relation to the proposed transfer of patients and wards from one site to another.
“We need to ensure that we have adequate staffing in place. We need to engage with nursing staff and clinical staff to ensure that that they can transfer from Perth to Dundee, or Dundee to Perth. If they can’t we have to make sure we can suitably redeploy them and there are some alternative options.”
He said: “We recognise that this is an upheaval for staff and we recognise that some staff can’t travel.”
Mr Paterson said it was crucial to get to the next phase of the plan, which involves shifting a ward from Carseview to Murray Royal.
“We are anticipating we will be in a position to progress this early in the new year, notwithstanding the fact we are sensitive to the impact and implications for staffing,” he said.
Independent councillor Xander McDade described the situation as “quite disturbing”.
He said: “At the meeting in January 2018, the main rationale for the redesign – which we were given repeatedly – was that the only way we could safely staff the service was to go ahead with this model.
“That was the clinching argument.”
NHS Tayside’s Alan Drummond said: “This was raised as a red risk prior to that meeting.
“It wasn’t a case that staff didn’t want to carry on their care for patients, they were just unable to make the move.
“We raised this as part of the consultation and we were told that the risk would be managed. This is not the unknown we are dealing with, this was raised three years ago.”
Mr Paterson said he was also aware that an independent inquiry into mental health services, led by Dr David Strang, was due to be published in February and could make further recommendations.
Dr Strang said earlier this year that the redesign should be halted to allow for a wider review of health services.
In early 2018 the friends and family of Conor Steel were left heartbroken when they learned the 24-year-old had taken his own life.
The Abertay University gaming student had been racked with severe depression for most of his adolescence and adult life.
But despite this it still came as a massive shock to those who knew him when he was found by a friend in his student accommodation in Dundee.
Now his mum, Frances Beck and university friends, are working hard in his name to ensure that no other young person feels so alone again that they feel there is no other way out.
In particular the city charity Feeling Strong, run exclusively by young people for young people is launching its Mind, Body and Goal campaign on January 2nd.
Although aimed at every young person it will be focusing particularly on boys and young men, because they are generally speaking less likely to be open about their mental health problems.
Stephanie Carney, a fourth year student at Abertay, and close friend of Conor is Feeling Strong’s campaign and lobbying lead.
The 23-year-old psychology and counselling student said: “Conor’s death was dreadful.
“It left us all heartbroken. It was at that time that his mum and I decided to do everything we could to provide support for other young people.
“We didn’t know how to go about it initially but in November last year Feeling Strong was developed, led by Brook Marshall.
“We have been involved with many young people ever since and although we couldn’t provide counselling we point people in the right direction.”
Stephanie added: “It’s a very sad fact that young men are much less likely than young women to speak about their mental health worries.
“Our latest campaign is aimed at getting the message across the boys that it is okay to ask for help.
“Conor had tried to ask for help. He did go to the doctor but he was just given medication.
“What he really needed was someone to listen to him.”
Conor’s mum, Frances, said that while she had been aware that her son had gone through many difficult times with depression while growing up she believed that when he came to Dundee to study gaming he had really turned a corner and was happy and felt at home in the city.
“His course was going well and he had made a lot of good, like-minded friends.
“He was the happiest I had ever seen him.”
Frances said that when Conor was at school he was an easy target for bullies with his gentle nature, red hair and glasses.
He struggled through his primary years and things became even worse when he went to secondary school in his hometown in Stewarton in Ayrshire.
While he was in Dundee Conor went to the doctor to talk about his worries.
She said: “He was given medication and when that didn’t work he was given more stronger medication and basically sent away and told to get on with it.
“I have no doubt Conor would have benefited from being educated about mental health and how to effectively cope with that stress.
“His story could have been so very different if he’d had that support at that key stage of his life.
“Had his mental health problems been prevented or had he been given targeted early intervention support, it’s highly unlikely that he would have taken his own life.”
She added: “It’s important for schools to involve children and young people in leading their peers in mental health programmes to encourage them to support each other and help break down the stigma surrounding mental health.
“Schools should also embed a system of regularly measuring the levels of wellbeing of the whole school community to identify problems at an early stage.
“Support should be provided by mental health support workers who work within each school community.
“Heartbreakingly, none of this will bring back my son, but it will go a long way in ensuring that the lives of other young people are not so tragically ended.”
A young mum’s bid to bring happiness to someone’s day has had its first major success.
Sophie McCutcheon, 23, from Lochee, struggles with crippling depression and has recently set about helping others in a similar situation.
Just a couple of weeks ago Sophie launched her Love from a Stranger project,
This saw her leaving dozens of inspirational notes around Dundee for those in need.
Now Sophie has spoken out about the first message she has received from a recipient of one of her notes.
The message to Sophie was from someone who also suffers severely from depression.
It said: “I found one of your cards last week. I found it on one of my really bad days.
“I was recently diagnosed with depression and it was nice to know that a stranger who is suffering the same mental health problems as myself and was kind enough to leave something small but it had a big impact on me.
“I’ve kept it in my memory box to look at when I do have a dark day.
“Just to know that there are people out there that care, and that I can get through this..
“So thank you from the bottom of my heart. I took it as a sign from my loved ones up above that I can keep going.”
Sophie said: “It was incredible to receive the message.
“I couldn’t be prouder of this achievement.
“It really warmed my heart to know that I was able to help someone who is in the same situation as my own.
“Something as small as my notes of kindness really can make a difference, and knowing that it did have such a big impact on them is the reason why I am doing this.
“I really hope they can lift the spirits of those who need them.”
Sophie’s project began as a result of her own 10-year battle with depression and anxiety.
She recently began her blog The Devious Mind which she hopes will be her own place of sanctuary that could help others.
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 young mum struggling with crippling depression has launched a campaign to spread love and kindness throughout the city.
Sophie McCutcheon, 23, from Lochee, plans to leave dozens of inspirational notes.
She began her project, called Love from a Stranger, last week and she will continue to leave random notes around the city on a weekly basis.
Sophie said: “Love from a Stranger is a project that is close to my heart and hopefully I’ll find some of my own happiness and hope from it.
“Every week I’ll be leaving handwritten notes with inspirational and kind messages on them around Dundee for people who need them the most, in the hope that they realise that they are not alone and there is more to our lives than the darkness.”
She added: “I often wish people were kinder to those surrounding them, especially children, whether they know them or not. I wish people were more supportive of one another, then perhaps we would be kinder to ourselves in adulthood.”
Sophie said she knows a lot of other people also struggle with their mental health and they don’t always feel like anyone understands what they’re going through.
She said “It’s for that reason I decided to introduce Love from a Stranger – it’s amazing how just a little note of kind words and encouragement can make a huge difference to someone’s life.”
Sophie said that among her messages were “be kind to yourself, you deserve it” and “never give up on yourself”.
“It would be great to find out if the note made a difference to someone’s day, life or mindset, and whether they kept it or passed it on to someone else.”
Sophie’s project began as a result of her own 10-year battle with depression and anxiety.
She recently began her blog The Devious Mind which she hopes will be her own place of sanctuary that could help others.