Summer is on it’s way (so they promise) and hopefully everyone has a break planned or is just back from a holiday.  It feels like it’s been a hectic few months at this end; but as ever, there have been many positives to that.

At the beginning of the month, we waited anxiously to see if we were going to win the Charity of the Year Award or the People’s Choice award. In the end, we could not compete with the huge inroads MND Scotland made this year in raising their profile, in particular with the Ice Bucket Challenge, but we came out winners all the same for being at the top of our game and representing the Highlands and mental health at a national level.  Thank you to all staff, volunteers and service users who went out of their way to secure us votes for the People’s Choice Award. It was a wonderful way to raise our profile further locally and across Scotland as a whole and I hope staff were able to feel proud of all that they had achieved to get us to that level in the first place. 

Other successes since our last newsletter have included us successfully passing our Investors in People interim review and some fun events in the form of the Mad Hatter’s Tea parties to celebrate mental health awareness week and for some of us, the Laughter Yoga workshops led by Linda.

Fast forwarding to the end of June now and last Friday, it was great to see so many people at the Party in the Garden at the Recovery Centre. I am afraid Head Office didn’t manage to get into the full swing of the activity until late on when some people had already departed as we were helping out with teas and cakes, but I would like to offer my sincere thanks to Michelle Keir, Andrew Greig, June Jeffrey, Annabel Mowat and Linda Birnie who all put themselves out there in the firing line to get soaked by Michelle’s two little ones who led the way in the getting wet stakes and reminded all who were watching how much fun you can have getting wet and soaking others, if only we could enjoy these pleasures as much as children do!  As for me, I took a back seat from this activity this year due to severe tooth ache, but promise to put myself in the firing line next year.  Please don’t all line up, or if you do, have your donations ready...

The other major piece of extra work activity at our end has been the preparations for our profile raising event – The Great Summer Festival and Fete Fashion Show.  It is going to be a spectacular show, with so much entertainment going on and has taken a lot of planning and effort to get it this far, 3 weeks away from the big night, Friday 17th July. The only slight problem at the moment is that we could do with a lot more tickets being sold, so please do help us in this respect.  If you can’t make it or it’s not your cup of tea, please do your bit by helping to promote to others who might be interested in coming.  It’s really important that we make this event a success, so here’s hoping.

Finally, I would just like to say a huge congratulations to Mark Skillin, BHRC and Fiona MacDonald, ER for their promotions to senior support worker posts and a hello and welcome to our three graduate interns working with us this Summer – James Williams, who is leading on our Birchwood Highland film, Ruth Carleton, carrying out research to strengthen the case for our young people’s project - A2B, and shortly to join us, Sandy Brander who will also be supporting the development work of A2B. 

Have a great Summer.

Best wishes,


A New Newsletter Format

You'll notice that along with our new website, we also have a new newsletter format. Keeping the newsletter online means we will save time putting it together, and be able to include video, audio, image galleries/slideshows, and links. Hopefully you'll enjoy this new way of keeping up to date with Birchwood Highland. You can also look around the new website (if you haven't already) using the at the top of the page and sign up to the external newsletter that goes out to supporters. 

Charity Finalists!

On Thursday the 4th of June, myself, Annabel, Linda and Paulina attended the Scottish Charity Awards in Edinburgh on behalf of Birchwood Highland. It was an incredible achievement for a Highland based charity to be competing alongside national charities and to be in the top 5 for the Scottish Charity of the Year Award.

The atmosphere was fantastic and Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister, was there and spoke about it being a marvellous achievement for all the charities that were shortlisted out of over 40,000 charities in Scotland.

The overall winners of the award were MND Scotland and they also won the People's Choice Award. But it is worth noting that we remain winners to have got into the final. We were given a finalist certificate and we will getting a copy of that to every service to display in their office. We have a lot to be proud of and the fact that we were in the final has helped to raise awareness about Birchwood Highland and mental health services in general.

A huge thank you to all staff and volunteers who helped to promote us to others for the people's choice award and to secure votes. This in itself has helped to raise our profile locally.

Finally and most importantly, a huge thanks to all of our staff and volunteers whose hard work, dedication and continuous strive towards providing excellent care and support helped us to secure a place in the final in the first place.

Emily Stokes, Chief Executive

Mad Hatters Tea Party!

Thank you to everyone who took part in a Mad Hatters Tea Party for Birchwood Highland. Many staff and service users got involved and there were some fantastic costumes. A second round of parties is being organised for later in the year, but this time we'd also like people and workplaces outside of Birchwood Highland to get involved. If you have any friends or family who work somewhere who might be up for it, give Head Office a call on 01463 236 507. Keep an eye on the intranet and our social media sites for updates!

The Art Club

The Art Club is a local group based in Invergordon museum. It is free to attend and is on at 2pm on a Monday until 4pm. The Art Club has a variety of different activities that they do. When I took Willie along they were making masks and drawing maps of the heart. The maps were to include what the individual thought was close to their heart and the things that meant the most to them. William had a great time.

 The masks that they made were to express what their inner animal was. It was a very fun experience William had chosen a stag. Willaim is a huge Staggies fan so he thoroughly enjoyed himself. There was lots of materials available and they used paper mache.  The group tries to do a different things every week and they usually have a theme running. A few  Birchwood service users do attend. There is tea, coffee and biscuits offered and the people who run it are very nice and attentive towards everyone. The work that the group does is kept  safe and they even use some of it for props in Eden court, which is very exciting for the members. They can see a sense of achievement with what they are doing. The group have made DVD's of their work when they were making props Eden court and each member received a copy.

The Art Club gives members confidence and also allows them to gain skills in drawing and arts and crafts. It also brings the community together and the locals can have a chat and feel comfortable around each other.

William Lennox has stated that the group makes him feel comfortable. William said, "I have always enjoyed art and meeting new people. The people running it are very nice."

Natasha Hutchison, Support Worker (Invergordon) 


Fashion Show

Support Birchwood Highland and pick up your tickets for Birchwood Highland's upcoming fashion show on the 17th of July for a night of magic, dance, comedy, music and fashion from M&Co and Maggie & Suzi. Tickets are available through our online store and from Head Office.  

If you're interested in volunteering at the show or helping beforehand by selling tickets or delivering flyers, please contact Head Office.

As you can see, this is a big event that has taken a lot of effort to organise by everyone involved and it would make it all worthwhile to have a good crowd of people there to enjoy the show. The night is not just about fashion, but also includes a variety of entertainment. 

We've got Toulon Magic, comedians Fiona Redwood and Kieran Lochore, Scottish folk band Corralach and a pole fitness performance by Wolanski's Pole & Aerial Fitness! Take a look at the video below for a preview. 



Hootananny Fundraiser

We had some fantastic acts playing at our May fundraiser at Hootananny which was attended by staff, service users, and members of the local music scene. Here's a short video of the performances by Brian Vass.

Music is Life

Music is Life is back! Following from last year's successful service user project, Steve Robertson will be delivering another series of workshops culminating in a night of live music to raise funds and awareness for mental health and Birchwood Highland. 

Spaces are limited and we have around 12 service users signed up currently. If you know of any Birchwood Highland/A2B service users who might be interested, let them know. They'll be working in a team to book bands, design the flyer, work with venue staff, and be part of an awareness-raising event. 

Wood Foundation Philanthropy Initiative

Here are the winners! This is the winning team from Millburn Academy that took part in the Wood Foundations Philanthropy Initiative. They gave an excellent presentation about Birchwood Highland that secured us a £3000 donation that will go towards supporting young people aged 16 to 24 through Birchwood Highland’s Aspire 2 Be service (A2B).

We cannot thank the pupils at Millburn Academy enough for donating these hard-earned funds to Birchwood Highland. They gave a hugely impressive and polished performance at the final, providing a real insight into depression and mental health, whilst also highlighting our role in supporting people with an emphasis on inclusion, independence and recovery.

Meet Lesley!

I recently met with Lesley Rhind to find out about Lesley’s experience of volunteering with Birchwood Highland. Lesley has been volunteering as an administrator in Head Office since February 2015 and has recently begun volunteering as a befriender at the Recovery Centre. Here is what Lesley has to say about her volunteering experience.

‘I first heard about volunteering through signpost. Before then I had not heard of Birchwood Highland so it was really good to find out more about the services they provide and how much they help people. Similarly when I told friends and family about where I was volunteering they often thought that I meant, ‘Beechwood’, so it was good to be able to explain what Birchwood Highland do and to help raise the profile of the charity. Like me everyone was surprised at the variety of activities undertaken. It makes me think, if Birchwood Highland was not here for people then there would be no other facility like it to give people the help and support that they need.

When I first started volunteering I worked in the office at Head Office and found it to be a really friendly little office, everyone is really nice and the atmosphere is really welcoming. Since February I have been involved in scanning documents, creating files and archiving. I have also been helping out with fundraising activities and have recently begun volunteering as a befriender at the recovery centre. It feels good to be doing something to help out and contribute while at the same time it makes me feel good about myself.’

When Lesley is not volunteering she enjoys outdoor pursuits and activities and enjoys supporting others to achieve their goals.

‘If anyone were to ask my advice on whether or not they should volunteer I would definitely say to them to do it. It makes you feel as though you are doing something worthwhile, it is great for your confidence and it gets you out and about mixing with people.’

If anyone is interested in finding out more about volunteering with Birchwood Highland please visit our website at www.birchwoodhighland.org.uk or contact us on 01463 236 507.

Deborah Wilson, Head Office Team Administrator 

Party in the Garden

Thanks to everyone involved in Party in the Garden at the weekend and well done to the brave souls willing to get soaked by Michelle's kids! Here are some photos. 

And finally welcome back to Lisa Ross who'll be back at Head Office from mid-July after maternity leave. Here she is with her new baby Alexander.  

Healthy Working Lives

Walking Group

Thank you to Jenny Bell, Support Worker at Lochaber Support Service, for emailing these photos of the Healthy Working Lives Lochaber Walking Group's recent outing. The SUG picked May to restart the walking group, hoping for good weather and they were fortunate to have a wonderful, warm day for the first outing. The group went to the Caledonian Canal, easing everyone back into walking and enjoying being outdoors.

It was good timing  as they caught the steam train crossing the Banavie Swing Bridge just as we were heading up the canal (pictured below).

Diabetes Awareness

In May, the community dietician Kaye, came to the staff team meeting to give a talk about diabetes. As a team we wanted more information on how to support Service Users with diabetes and to reduce the likelihood of developing diabetes.

Kaye gave an introduction to types of diabetes with the rise of Type 2 being the most prevalent. Type 2 is primarily caused by lifestyle choices. Kaye emphasised that diabetes develops slowly over many years and by making changes to diet and lifestyle before you felt unwell and complications arose was the best.

Kaye highlighted the importance of avoiding a sedentary lifestyle and maintaining a healthy weight. This links in well with Birchwood’s ethos of promoting independence. As a team we encourage Service Users to be as active as possible. We support Service Users to go to the local gym, swimming and involvement in the ‘Grow Well’ garden project and the walking group. Staff support several Service Users with shopping, healthy menu planning and cooking.

We learnt that there are two specialist diabetic nurses for Lochaber and they make domiciliary visits which would be of benefit to some Service Users who are apprehensive about visiting the health centre and find managing their diabetes difficult. There are also specialist clinics for eyesight, poor circulation and podiatry.

All Staff felt that Kaye’s talk had been valuable and highlighted the need to be as informed about diabetes as possible. 

Jenny Bell, Support Worker (Lochaber Support Service)

Ross County Football Buddies

I attended the Ross County Football games with service users Francis Kneafesy, Willy Lennox, Lloyd Mclean and John Mcmillan. All of them were looking forward to watching the game; John stated that he had not been to a game for twenty years and was very excited about going. There was plenty of chat in the car on the way to the game about Ross County. We were all looking forward to the game. Tracy Shaw from RCOP was organising the tickets for us so I had spoken to Tracy to organise how many tickets we would need and made arrangements to meet her before the game. We met Tracy there along with some people from some other groups. Everyone was friendly and welcoming. Everyone enjoyed the game and got into the spirit of things and John was delighted to be there.

Lloyd said he had not been to a game in a while and it was great to be there. Francis loves following the football scores and thoroughly enjoyed it and Willy is an avid Ross County supporter so it was very rewarding to see him enjoying watching the game. Tracey Shaw was very helpful and brought everyone tea and pies at half time. Hopefully this project will continue and the service users from Birchwood Highland can continue to enjoy it. Tracy gave the service users evaluation questionnaires to get feedback from them on their on their experience of it and they all gave positive feedback and said there was nothing they would want to change about the experience.

Heather Nic, Support Worker (Invergordon)

Special Mentions...

Congratulations to Rachel Brown, Business Support Officer (Inverness Support Service) and husband Darren who got married in Belfast this month.

We'd also like to say congratulations to Gavin Jeffrey for once again winning the ICAS Quiz with the Ernst & Young team, who raised £130 for Birchwood Highland and a huge well done to the inspiring team at Northern Recycling Solutions for reaching their £1000 target in the 5x50 challenge! Another fantastic donation to Birchwood Highland.

If you'd like to do some fundraising for the charity, think about running for Birchwood Highland in the Loch Ness Marathon and Festival of Running this Year. We have a charity place in the marathon and you can enter the 5K, 10K, or Corporate Challenge for us and raise money through Just Giving

If you've got any questions, please contact Brian Vass by emailing brian.vass@birchwoodhighland.org.uk

Linda Birnie has had staff in stitches at her recent laughter yoga workshops at Head Office and Lochaber. Laughing has a lot of mental and physical benefits and laughter yoga is a way to get these benefits easily in a group. 

As you can see from the photos, it's an experience!

HR Updates

Training Dates:

Food Hygiene 3rd July 9 am - 5 pm at Inshes Church

Recruitment and Selection 27th July 10 am - 3:30 pm at Inshes Church

First Aid 18th August 2pm - 4 pm at Inshes Church

Medication Training 28th August 1 pm – 4 pm at Inshes Church

Moving and Handling 18th August 9:30 am – 1 pm at Inshes Church

Communications Training 10th and 21st September, all are held at Inshes Church between 9 am and 4:30 pm

Medication Refresher 9th, 16th and 23rd September all are held at Inshes Church between 1 pm and 4 pm

Mental Health and Recovery 3rd September 9:15 am – 4:45 pm at Inshes Church

Recruitment and Selection 17th September 10 am – 3:30 pm held in the Head Office Board Room


Approved Policies:

BHRC Contingency Plan

Disciplinary Procedure

Grievance Procedure

Policy on Records Management & Archiving

Records Archiving Schedule

Risk Assessment & Management Policy

Smoking at Work Policy

Return to Work Procedure

BBV Policy


BHRC Exclusive polices:

Exclusion Policy

Fire Checks

Hygiene Standards

Missing Persons Procedure

Support Planning Guidelines

Personal Alarm Policy


Updated policies:
Blood-borne Viruses (BBV) Policy
Disciplinary Procedure
Grievance Procedure
Records Management & Archiving Policy
Records Management & Archiving Schedule
Return to Work Procedure
Risk Assessment & Management Policy
Smoking at Work Policy
BHRC Exclusive polices:
BHRC Contingency Plan
Exclusion Policy
Fire Checks
Hygiene Standards
Missing Persons Procedure
Support Planning Guidelines
Personal Alarm Policy
Calum McAdam – SW ISS
Sheila MacLeod – SW ISS
Joshua Mhango – RSW ISS
Naomi Lee – Administrator Head Office
James Williams – Film & Video Production Intern
Ruth Carleton – Research  and Impact Officer – Intern
Julie Snowden – RSW BHRC
Auden Dery – RSW BHRC
Paul Cranston – RSW BHRC
Martin Black – SW LSS
Carla MacMillan – SW LSS
Margaret Kirk – Administrator Head Office
Kenneth Stevenson – Administrator Head Office
Anne Scott – A2B Project Manager
David Durdle – SW ERSS
Colin Graham – SW BHRC
Christine Gage – SW BHRC
Lyndsey Brand – SW BHRC