Hello everyone,

We’ve had summer saunters, music festivals and wading through mud – just a few of the extra-curricular activities of staff over the summer all in aid of raising mental health awareness and funds for Birchwood Highland. The weather didn’t shine on us – just take a look at the sodden t-shirts in the Lochaber photo! and we were all just a little bit thankful that our huge steel heart for Belladrum was earthed before the lightning came, but thanks and hats off to all staff who took part in each of the above and was prepared to get drenched or covered in mud in the process.

Weather aside, our Birchwood heart soon became a media sensation this summer with thousands of hits on our film about it arriving at Belladrum and talks are currently underway to see if there is a future home in Inverness for the structure following a further year at Belladrum. Elsewhere in Easter Ross, the newly refurbished office was officially celebrated and building work has now commenced on the sun lounge at the Recovery Centre.

Meanwhile, we were recently re-assessed against the Investors in People framework in our three year review and were found to be meeting all of the framework’s requirements – thank you to all staff who were interviewed as part of this review. I am also delighted to be able to report on key qualification achievements of a number of staff members over the summer as follows: Heather Nic , support worker, Easter Ross, achieved her SVQ III in Health & Social Care, Linda Birnie, Community Services Manager achieved her PDA in medication, Paulina Duncan, Network Manager, her SVQ IV in Health and Social Care and Michelle Keir, Business Support Officer, Head Office, her SVQ 4 in Management and Leadership.

Over the past few months, we’ve also been trying to find out a bit more from our relief workers and volunteers to see how we can further improve communication and engagement and all teams will be looking at the feedback received to see if there are actions we can take forward. The Management Committee was also interested to see ideas and feedback from the young people’s forum and we will be looking at the suggestions further at our October meeting. In the meantime, we are keen to establish other forums where we feel that groups of staff can get together to help feed in their perspective on areas of service delivery and how we may be able to streamline, improve or do things differently to the advantage of the people we support and the organisation as a whole. An administrators forum will meet twice a year co-ordinated by Michelle Keir and Linda Birnie, Community Services Manager will co-ordinate a support worker’s forum to look at areas of service delivery or professional standards relevant to support workers. We would be grateful for one representative from Lochaber and Easter Ross and up to two from Inverness and the Recovery Centre. We know that nursing staff already come together at the Recovery Centre to look at best practice around medication.

"A bit of a bumpy ride at times and Birchwood was the cargo ship that kept him on an even keel!"  

- Lochaber Service User at the Seas the Day Workshop 

In the last newsletter I asked if services could share some of the achievements of staff and/or service users in their areas and I am delighted to read some poetry from Easter’s Ross own Steve Jackson in this edition. With the service users’ AGM fast approaching us and over 90 people booked to meet in Inverness for the day, along with really positive reports from the workshops currently running across our service areas in preparation for the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival launch in October, I know that we will not be short of great things to report on in our next edition!

And Finally...  next June is our 30th anniversary and we hope to celebrate it in true fashion. Indeed, I know that Fort William was already lined up for a parade a few months back... Always thinking ahead!  In addition, however, to the celebrations that I anticipate all services will do with service user groups locally, we will have a staff and volunteer celebration party on Friday 30th June.  It will be back to the 80's or (depending on your age) this is what it was like to be in the 80's party!  Costumes, food, disco dancing, perhaps even a few routines may feature.  We will keep you updated. but in the meantime, if you've got any ideas for the party, please share with us.

- Emily Stokes, Chief Executive


Birchwood Highland at Belladrum

We gathered the hopes, dreams, loves and wishes of the Highlands at Belladrum. Watch our video to see how it grew! The heart was a beautiful structure in a beautiful setting all in aid of Birchwood Highland's work around the region and to help us stamp out the stigma associated with mental ill health. Festival goers added their lovelocks and cloots with messages and stories and helped make the heart even more beautiful. 

Thanks to everyone who got involved and took photos, attached lovelocks and cloots and shared their stories with us! And a huge thank you to all involved in producing the heart: Bella's Joe Gibbs whose design Iain and the guys at Serimax created beautifully, Grampian Steel in Oldmeldrum for providing the materials, engineering expertise by Fairhurst in Inverness, transportation by Bannerman Transport, signs by All-Round Signs, Fort William, and Derry Campbell for putting it in place.

While we were at the festival, we also made a video featuring people at the Festival reciting lines of  'First Aid' Jo McFarlane (click to view the video on Facebook which currently has well over 7000 views) and 'Save' by Teenage Fanclub; another beautiful track with poignant lyrics.

I had the pleasure of having a work experience placement at the Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival this year where I was an Entertainment Assistant.  To be honest, before I went to Belladrum I was frightened because I didn’t know what exactly would be asked of me. I was extremely nervous on the Wednesday, but I was okay once I was there.  On Wednesday I was based in the Box Office giving traders their wristbands, being in a golf buggy and showing them where they would be setting up in the Main Arena.  It was enjoyable, but busy.  On Thursday I helped out with one of the box offices again and gave performers wristbands and saw the Two Door Cinema Club tour bus arrive. Then I was put to my station where I would be all weekend.  I was situated at the entertainment office in the main arena.  Mainly, I was looking after the performers on the Burke and Hair Stage, The Venus Flytrap Stage and the Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum Tent.  I also dealt with buskers performing on different stages and street circus performers.  I had a folder which let me know where each performer had to be.  I answered queries on site about directions and I had a radio and an earpiece to communicate with other staff members if I didn’t know the answer to the performers' queries.  I also looked after a key which looked after the performers' belongings needed for their act in a container. 

I had a number of highlights at Belladrum.  The first was using my hospitality skills and setting up the wrestlers dressing room who were performing in the Venus Flytrap Stage.  I then tidied up after them and set up the dressing room again for the comedians who came. They were in porta cabins but it was very much the same as setting up a hotel room.  The second highlight was making journeys backstage at the Garden Stage and just being in awe being there.  I went backstage of the Garden Stage because I needed to get items that the performers had requested for their dressing rooms.  I liaised with the press team a lot as the entertainment and press worked together. 


Finally, the last highlight, and the one that made me all emotional, was being given time off on the Saturday to see Lucy Spraggan in the Hothouse Tent.  I managed to make it and I was in the front row. Lucy played some new songs and some of her well known songs such as 'Tea and Toast', 'Jeremy Kyle' and her new song 'Dear You' which focuses on mental health.  The tent was jam packed and Lucy's performance was incredible.  After her gig I had the honour of being able to give her a short interview on behalf of North Highland College.  I asked her the following questions.

N:  What do you enjoy about performing at Festivals?

L:  I enjoy seeing fans that wouldn’t be able to see me at other shows and seeing a different crowd compared to normal shows.

N:  You were at Brighton Pride with Heather Peace what was it like working with her?

L:  I bump into Heather a lot as we are at the same location a lot of the time and we are used to working together.

N:  Would you come back to Belladrum if asked?

L:  Yes I love performing at Belladrum and would come back if I was asked.

N:  Where are you heading after Belladrum any more gigs planned?

L:  I am heading home tonight to family as my mum is making dinner for me tomorrow and relaxing.  I will be doing a Highland tour in September

N:  Do you get tired with all the travelling and performing?

L:  Yes it is tiring travelling around but it’s worth it for the fans when I’m on stage.

After my short and sweet interview with Lucy, I got a hug and a photo and she said she remembered me from previous gigs and my tweets to her which she reads.  It got me all emotional.  I didn’t have any lows at camp apart from my tent leaking and the wind being bad on Saturday but you can’t help the weather. I liked being given the responsibility of the entertainment office from my Supervisor and my manager and the team of people I worked with were lovely.  The Press Team were also lovely towards me and I am thankful for them letting me interview Lucy. Belladrum has taken my number and I have been asked back next year.  I also had memorable and funny times with the street theatre performers who wore some funny costumes. My favourite were the gorillas!  I made friends that I will see again next year and going to keep in contact with and it was lovely having my tutors from college (Diana my Programme Leader and Kirsteen my Class Teacher) visiting me at the Entertainment Office.  However, since coming home I haven’t fully settled back to normality yet as I wake up panicking where my Belladrum radio and key are. I had a fantastic time at Belladrum and I thank North Highland college and the Belladrum team for giving me the opportunity.  I am extremely thankful and appreciate all both done for me.  Until next year…

Written by Nicola, a service user at Birchwood Highland in Invergordon. 

Birchwood at Beast Race

The Beast race took place on Saturday 3rd September, where Andrew Greig, Jayne Geddes, Sheila MacLeod, Sheila's daughter, Derek Thain and myself teamed up to fundraise for Birchwood Highland. This was a 10k obstacle course around (and in!) Loch Ness which certainly challenged us all physically and mentally. The atmosphere was great on the day, there were people dressed up, big teams competing and food and drink stands for the spectators and the participants. We all got a bit muddy, wet and had great fun and raised over £1000!

- Sarah Smith, Team Administrator at Birchwood Highland

Kit Tales, Cocktails, and Mocktails

It was a night of cool lighting and even cooler talking when Kit Fraser took to a leather stool to discuss his new book How To Be Happy (It's Not Easy). Cocktails flowed and laughter was definitely the order of the day as Kit shared his mind with the crowd at the intimate soiree. Held at Kit's newest venue Glow Bar, above his legendary haunt Hootananny's in Inverness, the evening was a great success and we'll definitely be back for more cocktails and cool lighting very soon!  


For Those About to Rock...

We're delighted to announce a very special event which will be part of next year's 30th Anniversary celebrations for Birchwood Highland...

We will be teaming up with Rock Therapy, an independent rock/pop choir to host a night of fundraising for both Birchwood Highland and the British Heart Foundation.

Held on June 16th 2017 at The Ironworks, Inverness, it will be a night of music, mayhem and mega hits from the past 30 years, spanning our whole history here in the Highlands.

Tickets details will be announced very shortly but if you would like to join the choir find out how on Facebook.



Andrea Morgan is trekking the Himalayas with us next April and has organised a great event in September to raise funds for Birchwood Highland. It'll be a hoot! Call her on 01463 241009 for tickets. We've also had another recent participant in the trip - Rosie Devrall at the Recovery Centre!

If you're interested in a once in a lifetime adventure, Trek could be for you! Find out more here or contact Pauline Burnett at Head Office!

Quiz Night

Autumn Raffle

Creative Writing Workshops

Charity News

Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film Festival

The Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film Festival launch will take place on Thursday, 6th October at the Bike Shed in Merkinch. We will have some wall space available at the Bike Shed to present our artwork. If there has been any artwork created during the year that you would like to be displayed or if any service users would like their artwork to be included in the exhibition, please contact Paulina Duncan at Head Office. Please also get in touch if any services or service users would like to contribute at the closing event where we will be presenting a short film (currently in progress). The closing event will take place at the Town Hall on Wednesday, 26th October. 

Our Seas the Day installation will be displayed at Eden Court for 2 weeks, between 10th and 23rd October.  We will also host a film night at Eden Court on Thursday, 20th October. It will start at 19.45 with a screening of our short film which will then be followed by a feature film entitled It’s Kind of a Funny Story. After the films a panel discussion will take place. If you would like to be on the panel or if you can think of someone, a service user perhaps, who would, again you can contact Paulina Duncan. Tickets for the night are available at Eden Court. The prices are: Adult - £9.50; Concession - £8.50; U18s/student - £6.  We will have some free tickets to give out, so please get in touch with me if you know of any service users/staff who would like to attend. We will also be using the free tickets to promote the event on our social media.

Welcome Rachael! 

Here's an opportunity to find out a little about Rachael MacPherson, Birchwood Highland's new Film & Video Production Offer. 

1. Why did you decide to work for Birchwood Highland?

 I decided to join Birchwood Highland as I think it is a great charity and I believe in what they do. I also thought it would be a great opportunity to get some experience and training in filming, especially for a cause I believe needs awareness and to have stigma challenged.

2. What would you do if you were guaranteed success?

 If I was guaranteed success, I would do the lottery and travel the world, helping people and causes along the way.

3. What's your favourite film?

Invictus is my favourite film because it is uplifting and inspiring. 

4. What's your favourite thing to do on a Sunday? 

My favourite thing to do on a Sunday is to go ice-skating.

5. If you could be any animal, which would you be and why? 

If I could be an animal, I would probably be an elephant because they stick together and wander the plains of Africa. 

6. What's your motto?

My motto is: 'Just keep going'.

Tears Flow at Invergordon Charity Bash

Invergordon’s Birchwood Highland office was buzzing with excitement as staff at the mental health charity’s Easter Ross base revealed the new-look interior.

Manager Lynn Keith and her team welcomed both the people who use the service and special guests to the newly-refurbished offices. Everyone was especially thrilled to welcome Roy MacGregor and his wife Morag on the day as it gave them the opportunity to thank the couple for the long-standing support they have given the charity. The couple admired the new quiet room, drop-in space and the sign which makes the charity hugely visible on the High Street.

Roy and Morag were presented with gifts, while speeches from service users explaining the difference Birchwood Highland had made to their lives left most of the happy gang in tears.

Team Manager Lynn Keith said: “All of the direct support we give to the people who use our service is funded, but donations from the community really are vital. They enable the service users to enjoy social activities and outings – the things that make life enjoyable. We are very, very grateful for the generosity of the people of Invergordon and the wider Ross-shire community.”

And speaking of generosity, a local businessman in Easter Ross has donated this 7 seater Mercedes van which will be used for service user outings and activites! 

Pauline Burnett, Fundraising Manager

No Rain Delays for Summer Saunter

Staff, service users and supporters in Lochaber took to the streets for Birchwood Highland's Summer Saunter (we use the term Summer very loosely!). Despite being in the height of 'the hot season', participants braved the wind and the rain to participate in See Me Scotland's #LetsWalkaMile campaign. We're delighted to say the saunterers also raised over £300 for their efforts!

Social Enterprise

Do you know of someone who would be interested in growing their skills and widening their horizons with social enterprise? Click here for the PDF of the flyer below to print or share.

Contact Linda Birnie (linda.birnie@birchwoodhighland.org.uk) for more details. 

Youth Philanthropy Initiative

We recently went to Charleston Academy to meet the students participating in this years’ YPI. Various charities attended the event and we really enjoyed meeting everyone involved. It’s a fantastic opportunity for young people to develop skills, confidence and raise awareness of social issues and local charities. It’s also about creativity and passion with the chance of receiving a £3000 grant for their preferred charity through team work, research and competition.

We were delighted to be informed that a group from the school, Rachael, Katie, Julie, Maria, Daniel and Scott, have chosen to represent Birchwood. We are looking forward to working with them all and helping them with their research and presentation.

Inverness UHI Freshers' Fayre

We recently attended the Inverness UHI Fresher’s Fayre. The event gives students an opportunity to get advice and suggestions from visiting businesses and organisations. It was great to meet and also network with students and visitors. We wanted to promote Birchwood as much as possible and inform people of the work we do, the problems we have to overcome, the geographical area we cover and opportunities that are available within the organisation and generally get people interested and talking about mental ill health.

As a way to get people to be more involved with us and find out their knowledge around mental ill health, we asked everyone to take part in a mental health quiz with a hamper as a prize. The winner was Josie Buchanan. The questions included:-

* How many people in the UK will experience mental ill health in any given year? ½ ¼ 1/8

* What proportion of people with mental ill health experience stigma? 90% 10% 50%

* Which of the following UK Prime Ministers experienced mental health ill health?

Gordon Brown Margaret Thatcher Winston Churchill

We received 60 completed forms. We are currently collating this information which will be very interesting and valuable to us. The answers and results will be issued to those involved.

We really enjoyed the day and hopefully we recruited some volunteers too! Thank you Inverness UHI for inviting us. Best wishes to all the students in the future.

- Veronica Macleman, PA Administrator at Head Office


Birchwood Highland Connect: Remote Access Support Service

Work is underway to develop a remote access system, “Birchwood Highland Connect” to complement our existing traditional methods of service delivery within communities across the area we serve. This would be based on an electronic tablet device that would enable service users to have a “virtual” support session with a support worker. During the session there would be capability to talk and discuss through a video link up, and to share documents for example correspondence that the service user wishes support with. Capability will also be available to complete the personal support plan, including jointly completing the mental health recovery outcome star. We are nearing the point of having a version ready to test with Team Managers. Teams are also already discussing this as an option with current and potential future service users to explore where this approach will add value.

We look forward to being able to fully pilot this approach in Easter Ross and Lochaber, with a view to improving the options available to service users in remote areas and/or isolated situations and enable people to use support time fully without unnecessary travel costs. This also promotes less driving time for staff and a reduction in our carbon foot print in delivering our services. We will continue to offer our traditional mode of service provision, while Birchwood Highland Connect offers additional choice.

- Linda Birnie, Community Services Manager


Co-production Sessions

Sessions on building confidence in co-production were run at team meetings at Lochaber, Easter Ross, and Inverness Support Services. The New Economics Foundation provides the following definition: “Co-production means delivering public services in an equal and reciprocal relationship between professionals, people using services, their families and their neighbours. Where activities are co-produced in this way, both services and neighbourhoods become far more effective agents of change”. The session provided the opportunity for teams to examine how and why we use co-production within Birchwood Highland as a staff team, and also in our role to support service users. Discussions highlighted the benefits of a co-production approach, as well as the challenges, and how we are working to overcome them. In both situations, co-production is about participation, engagement, and involvement of people. In plain language it is about speaking with people, finding out what their needs and priorities are and designing and delivering services, processes and/or activities that meet those needs. This is entirely in line with our ethos of “Independence, Inclusion, and Recovery”. A co-production approach supports the thinking and legislation behind Self Directed Support, and people having more choice in the services that they receive.

Co-production requires investment in terms of time, especially at the beginning of a process, and is not a cheap option. However, over time, co-production would be expected to lead to best use of resources, improved outcomes, and accordingly reduce waste through designing and refining the most effective ways of delivering services and carrying out work processes. Co-production is not an easy option either, it takes time and commitment to achieve a genuine and authentic process.

Staff may find the following film clip of interest. 

I like the following comment made by one of the participants in the clip: 

“If something has been co-produced they know it and they feel it.”

Key co-production messages:

* When you start co-production allow for the time this will take.

* Work to develop full and equal partnership with people from the very start of the process.

* Consider ways to hand over power from professionals to people who use services.

* Everyone working in an organisation and at every level needs to commit to co-production.

* Think about the different approaches that may be needed to work effectively with particular individuals and groups of people.

- Linda Birnie, Community Services Manager


Get On Your Bike with Confident Cycle Training

We had a great day cycling training on the 9th of September delivered by Velocity Café and Bicycle Workshop in Inverness funded by Cycling Scotland. Everyone had a good time and gained some extra confidence to cycle along busy roads in Inverness. There will be another training session, this time on bike maintenance, that will take place in October. Anyone interested in attending please get in touch with Paulina Duncan at Head Office. Also, anyone who would like to take up cycling is welcome to get in touch too. 

- Paulina Duncan, Network Manager



Written by Steve Jackson at the Creativity in Care writing and poetry group.


The old Victorian village

Is far away from the rest

With cars and holiday makers

Heading for the north & west

I think how wonderful all these generations

of people brought up in the village

But I suppose, also historically,

those who have come to rest

There must be few villages

That can match this one’s prowess!

What a place

A Strathpeffer!


A village far from the rest!

Steve D Jackson

July 2016



There was a time to enjoy ourselves once

Again with the ART class back in Balintore!

But as for my boat Margaritta I guess

She’ll never be the same again – As she lies

Strewn on the rocks in bits on the bottom

Just outside King’s Cave and Davy Jones’ locker!

I guess from her point of view – She’ll

Never be the same again.

The boat that served me so well – in the

End went down with outboard MOTOR.

And apart from ONE OAR and

A Duckham’s oil petrol can that’s where

Margaritta will remain.

The boat man “WOW” it will never

Be the same again.

And with the boat crashed on the rocks

Only the memories of her remain!


Steve D. Jackson

Poetry in Motion, Balintore, 27.8.16



The sea is close by

Seals and salmon are on the run

But most of all it’s great to be out

There in the sun

Maybe the tide will go out

And we can go down looking

For rocks & crabs down

On the beach

Maybe it’ll be great

But there’s a lot you can teach

Down there and alone and on

The beach! Shells are nice

But if they’re at home we can

Pretend we’re still on the beach!

Although if the sun does go in

Then at last our luck might be in!

Steve D. Jackson

Poetry in Motion, Balintore, 27.8.16

IT Security

Recently our IT policies and infrastructure have been reviewed and we are looking at ways to increase our security around emails and our general IT. Training will be provided to all staff on emails and this will become mandatory and refreshed on an annual basis. This will be facilitated to approx. 10 key staff who will then roll this out to each of their services. It is important that as an organisation we continually develop on areas around our infrastructure and keep on looking at more efficient ways to do things. More information on this will be sent out to all staff nearer the time when it has been finalised, so please keep an eye out for this.


Starters & Leavers

Welcome to the following new members of staff:

Anne Dickinson – Staff Nurse at BHRC

Maureen Semple – Relief Support Worker at BHRC

Jana Smilga – Relief Support Worker at BHRC

Mairi MacDonald – Relief Support Worker at LSS

Nikki Jasiczak-Cole – Relief Support Worker at LSS

Rachael Macpherson – Film and Video Production Officer at Head Office

Danny Balfour – Support Worker at ISS

Best of luck to the following staff who have moved on from Birchwood Highland:

Andrew Grieg – Support Worker at ISS

Dorothy Dillon – Support Worker at ISS

Jennifer Bell – Support Worker at LSS

Craig Brown – Support Worker at BHRC


Training Dates


24th September - Medication (New) - 10.00 - 13.00 at Recovery Centre

25th September - Medication (Refresher) - 10.00 - 13.00 at Recovery Centre

26th September - SafeTALK Suicide Awareness - 09.00 - 17.00 at RNLI building, North Kessock, Inverness

29th September & 6th October - WRAP - 10.00 - 16.30 at Head Office


25th October - Behaviour that Challenges (New) - 09.30 - 17.00 at Inshes Church


1st November - Food Hygiene - 09.00 - 17.00 at Head Office

4th November - Medication (Refresher) - 10.00 - 13.00 at Recovery Centre

7th November - SafeTALK Suicide Awareness - 09.00 - 17.00 at RNLI building, North Kessock, Inverness

8th November - Behaviour that Challenges (Refresher) - 09.30 - 12.30 at Inshes Church

10th & 17th November - WRAP - 10.00 - 16.30 at Head Office

29th November - Health & Safety - 09.30 - 16.30 at Inshes Church

30th November - Adult Support & Protection - 13.30 - 16.300 at Kilmallie Church, Caol


1st & 8th December - WRAP - 10.00 - 16.30 at Head Office

6th December - Adult Support & Protection 10.00 - 12.30 in Inverness, venue to be confirmed

14th December - Adult Support & Protection 10.00 - 12.30 in Inverness, venue to be confirmed

15th December - Adult Support & Protection 10.00 - 12.30 at County Community Hospital, Invergordon


6th January - Mental Health & Recovery - 09.15 - 17.00 at Inshes Church



All of the following policies have recently been reviewed and updated. Please can all staff take a re-look at them to re-familiarise yourselves with them

Conflict of Interest Policy

Pool Bike Scheme and Procedure - New policy and procedure

Data Protection and Access to Personal Records Policy

Environmental Risk Assessment - Scalding (new)

Environmental Risk Assessment - Pool Bike Scheme (new)

Fundraising Policy and Ethical Fundraising Policy Statement

Return to Work Policy

Policy on Payments (new)

Staff Support Policy

Maintaining security and integrity of Service Users homes