Chief Executive's Welcome

Hello and a very Merry Christmas to one and all and wishing you all the very best for 2017.

2016 has been a great year for Birchwood Highland, with many achievements, including excellent grades yet again, new buildings, including offices and additions to existing buildings. Lots of fun and innovative ideas on both the funding and fundraising side. Widespread promotion both locally and nationally of our work as well as huge strides in our delivery of support, including the development of a remote care service.

2017 should be even better as we launch into our 30th year, with much to celebrate and many different ways that we intend to do just that!  Don’t forget the staff celebration ‘back to the eighties’ party on Friday 24th June at the Chieftain Hotel (please put in your diary now, if it’s not already in it) and help your team choose their team performance (if you don’t know about this, ask some of the staff who have been around a few years longer!), the street parties we are hoping to have in Easter Ross and Lochaber with service users taking a lead role in these and the many different ways we intend to try and lead events and promotions to celebrate our 30 years at Birchwood Highland.  

Any staff, volunteers and/or service users keen to share memories and/or photos of some of their earlier years with Birchwood Highland are invited to do just this. We would love to be able to document different aspects of how we have developed over the years.

So, have a relaxing and enjoyable time over the Christmas and New Year period as we expect it to be a full on year ahead, but also hopefully a great year to remember!

Year in Review

Relive and explore some of Birchwood Highland's highlights from 2016 in pictures. 

We’d like to say a huge thank you…

As we near the end of 2016, our year of Hearts, Minds and Highlanders, Pauline Burnett, Birchwood Highland’s Fundraising Manager, would like to say a huge thank you to all of the staff and service users who have contributed their skills, time and enthusiasm to the events.

We couldn’t do it without the support and generosity of all of you. The following businesses and individuals have all been instrumental in our successful year:

A is for… Ambassadors

Our wonderful ambassadors Nicola McAlley & Steve Robertson

Music promoter Steve brought Music Is Life workshops to the residents and staff at the Recovery Centre, while super-busy STV reporter Nicola gave up some of her time this year to volunteer for a few hours’ work in the garden and kitchen and ensured great coverage for our Migrant's Matter Conference as well as doing the Mad May Mile for us. Thanks guys!

B is for… The Beast Race

Sarah Smith, Andrew Greig, Jayne Geddes, Sheila MacLeod, Sheila's daughter and Derek Thain teamed up to take on The Beast Race. A 10k obstacle course around - and in! - Loch Ness, it certainly challenged them all physically and mentally. Massive thanks to the brave team who raised over £1000!

B is also for… Birchwood Highland’s Big Belladrum Heart

We’re delighted to say the heart looked fantastic in both its naked form and once hundreds of festival-goers had added cloots and lovelocks! Thank you to everyone who added a cloot or a lovelock to the gorgeous structure. We couldn’t have done it without the following individuals and businessed who donated their time, skills and enthusiasm for free….

Joe Gibbs, Sam, Derry and the Belladrum Tartan Heart festival team for finding the heart a beautiful home; Jim Oliver, Alan Mackay, Iain Kershaw and Dave Mackay and the team at Serimax for creating something truly amazing; Sandy and the team at Grampian Steel for supplying the materials; Donald Macarthur at Fairhurst for making sure it was safe; Gordon and the team at Bannerman (Tain) Ltd. for transporting the heart through narrow lanes and, last but not least, Jamie and the team at All-Round Signs for helping us shout about it. 

Birchwood Highland’s Big Belladrum Heart raised £3000 at Bella 2016 and we look forward to seeing you all there again for Bella 2017!

C is for… Caring & Sharing

Izzie MacDonald of Caring & Sharing is a great support to charities and groups across the Highlands. Caring And Sharing donated £1000 to the Easter Ross service user fund to enable outings and workshops for the guys there.

D is for… Dinner With The Stars

In May we put on an ambitious dinner in one of the Highlands’ best new buildings, UHI Inverness College. There are so many people to mention here as it was an amazing evening of generosity from the Highlands and beyond. Thank you to all of the staff who supported in the hectic run-up to the event, came along to help set and enjoyed the evening’s shenanigans. 

Our wonderful chefs on the night were Jamie Scott of The Newport, Mark Dickson of Bunchrew House Hotel, David Barnett of The Torridon, Elizabeth Brown of Capability Brown’s and thanks also to Phil Stewart of Nourish, Inverness.

Our wonderful location was UHI Inverness College and we would like to thank Georgie Parker, Diane Rawlinson, Martin White, Robbie Sherrifs, Pauline Tuthill and all of the students who assisted at the event until the wee small hours.

Our suppliers were fabulous, too: thanks to Ali Asher and all of the staff at Ashers; Gary Williamson and the staff at Williamson Foodservice; James and Stevie and their team at Hastie & Dyce, Douglas Greig and the team at Highland Print & Design; Annette and the team at Glenmorangie; Donna Peacock at Highland Cordials; Heidi and the team at Munro’s Nursery; Dan and Rohaise Rose-Bristow at The Torridon; Mangus and the staff of Coast & Glen; Nigel Parkin and the staff at Bunchrew House Hotel; Grant and the staff at North Of Scotland Marquees; Kim at Black Orchid; Highland Wineries; Speyside Glenlivet Water and last but not least Craig and the ever-supportive Limelight Events Services guys. 

Our special thanks go to Bruce MacGregor, Eilidh Davies and Conor O’Hara for performing and hosting the event so brilliantly, and the wonderful Paul Spencer of Dingwall Mart for hosting the auction. 

Thanks to everyone who made the night such a success, especially Ronnie Macintosh, Deirdrie Smyth, Scott Bremner, Donald Mackenzie, Gemma Palumbo, Maggie Blyth and friends and all of the guests for their generosity on the evening. 

The event raised £10,500 which was an amazing result.

D is also for… Birchwood Highland’s Directors

They’re a hands-on bunch, whether it’s helping out at the finish line of the Highland Cross, bidding for auction prizes at dinners, starring in films , helping put up bike sheds, attending Board Meetings during the year, or answering really tough questions on quiz nights, they’re there supporting us. Thank you guys. We appreciate your efforts, skills and time – you know it matters!

D is also for…Dows Bar staff

Glenn, Moira and the staff at Dows Bar for our monthly quiz and Tune Bingo nights, great food and smiles.

E is for… Ellerium Games

Much fun was had when the staff at Ellerium Games in Inverness laid on a 24-hour games marathon for James Wilson, one of our trekkers. What a hoot!

F is for… film stars

We called on Alison White, Joni Phippin, Ryan Harkins and Stuart Williamson to take part in a short film. Called One Ordinary Day, Four Ordinary Lives it was made for 2016’s Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film Festival. The film highlighted the sameness, not the difference in people’s lives, asking the question if one in 4 of us will experience mental ill health, which one of us is it… and does it matter? The film has been viewed over 12,600 times so far on Facebook and makes for a really rewarding watch.

H is for… Highland Cross

Our massive thanks and admiration go to the runners, riders and organisers of the event. We had a great time supporting you all at the finish line where we took bikes from very tired competitors, handed out medals and soaked up the fabulous atmosphere. To then be handed a cheque for £45,000 to enable us to build vital social space at the Recovery Centre was the icing on the cake!

H is also for… Highland Third Sector Interface

Mhairi and her team awarded Birchwood Highland a £4,800 grant to fund hardware and training for a pilot scheme trialling remote care. The project goes live early next year so watch this space.

J is for... the Jeffrey family

Andrew ran the Edinburgh half marathon, raising £414, while dad Gavin helped on many fronts – as a willing quizzer and a kind donor of furniture. Jumpin’ Jeffreys, we salute you!

J is for... Jo MacFarlane

Hailed as the Poet Laureate of Recovery, Jo is an Edinburgh-based poet who quite literally bounced back from mental ill health. After trying to commit suicide by jumping from Salisbury Crag in the capital, she now writes beautiful and challenging poetry. We are indebted to her for allowing us to use her piece ‘First Aid’ for a film we made with the festival-goers at Belladrum. The film reached over 26,000 people and if you haven’t seen it yet you can go to our Facebook page.

K is for… Kit Fraser and the staff at Glow Bar, Inverness

Author, bar owner and raconteur Kit gave us a great evening’s entertainment at Glow Bar, Inverness. The owner of Hootananny, Kit’s always on form and told us his secrets to being happy. We enjoyed not only his talk but the accompanying cocktails, too!

L is for… The Legion, Dingwall

Marian and the staff at The Legion in Dingwall have been very supportive for our trekkers Rosie and Fiona, laying on Tune Bingo and a successful Christmas Fayre for people in the town. We loved the singalong and the mulled wine!

M is for… our Mad May Mile friends

Thanks to Gus Macdonald for allowing us to run riot in daft costumes around Whin Park one day in May! We raised around £1,000 - and a few eyebrows - on the day!

R is for… Roy and Morag MacGregor

Roy and his wife Morag have always been so supportive of Birchwood Highland’s Easter Ross service. We enjoyed hosting them in the newly-refurbished offices on Invergordon High Street, where speeches from service users explaining the difference Birchwood Highland had made to their lives left most of the happy gang in tears.

R is also for… Our runners

Three runners all the way from Switzerland supported Birchwood Highland in September's Loch Ness Marathon. Thanks to Sabine and Estelle ran the Marathon and Stefano and Jake ran the 10K. Jess also ran the 10K for us.  They raised over £1,357. Thanks also to Gwen Peddle who raised £450 single-handedly in the Brodie Castle 10k!

S is for… Socially-aware businesses

We’re delighted to say that two people who use our service will be taking on the trek in the Himalayas and to speed them on their way local firms Innes & Mackay and Castle Group Security have donated £500 and £1000 respectively to their fundraising pots. Thank you for your generosity!

T is for… Our intrepid trekkers

This April nine brave souls will take on the Himalayas. With a special package created by Julia McLeay of Spirit Journeys Worldwide, we are packing our bags for the trip of a lifetime. Our thanks go to the wonderful Julia for all of her help in planning and herding us all into position! Special thanks and good luck wishes go to Kelly Howley of Clark Thomson Insurance, Rosie Deverell of Birchwood Highland’s Recovery Centre, Birchwood Highland Support Worker Andrea, Birchwood Highland Community Services Manager Linda Birnie, Fundraising Manager Pauline Burnett and the wonderful Fiona MacKenzie, Andrew, Breck and Anthony for all of their fundraising efforts and commitment to getting fit! We salute you! Race you to the top!

If you would like to donate to the trekking team, click here.

T is also for… Teenage Fanclub

The fabulous band allowed us to use the lyrics to ‘Save’, one of their great songs, for a film we made at Belladrum. The film reached over 16,000 people on Facebook. To view it go to our Facebook page. 

V is for… V8 Café

Ronnie Dyce and his team laid on a prize bingo night for Andrea Morgan, one of our trekkers. Basket supper and bingo… what’s not to like?! 

Y is for… You

Without your ongoing hard work and dedication in your day to day work as well as your support for Birchwood Highland's wider objectives, including its fundraising efforts, we wouldn't be half as successful as we have been or have had as much fun this year.

Thank you for 2016. We look forward to more great achievements, fun and excitement in 2017.


Birchwood Overview (Poem)

Another year has all but flown,

Seasons have changed one into the other,

Let’s look back at what has been,

Because it was all part of a team.

Students have come and also have gone,

New staff have been welcomed into the throng,

Celebrations for longevity of employment,

Has simply added to the realised belonging.

Fun and frivolity partying in the garden,

Maximum enjoyment being brought to old friends and new,

Activities, occasions such as barbecue,

Residents meetings with changes and amendments too.

Meetings and consultations by way of ongoing recovery,

Some of the things that make life more manageable,

Accepted deliverance from assigned staff members

In their roles each carries out diligently

Camping trips and outings too

Part of what we at Birchwood do

So to sum up this year of success and positivity

Here’s to the next with hope, happiness and temerity


Author John Macleod

Charity News


We are delighted yet again to be able to report on key qualification achievements of a number of staff members over the last few months as follows: Linda Birnie, Community Services Manager achieved her SVQ IV in Health & Social Care, Christine McRae , support worker, Lochaber support service, achieved her SVQ III in Health & Social Care, Jenny Bell, Relief Support Worker, Lochaber support services achieved her SVQ III in Health & Social Care, as did Helen Rhind, Support Worker, Birchwood Highland Recovery Centre. 

Finally, Michelle Keir, just before she left us to move on to a role with another Care provider, found out that she had been awarded the best student of the year award for her progress in her SVQ 4 in Management and Leadership which she achieved whilst working in Head Office





Birchwood Highland’s Year of Happiness

As we enter 2017, we are entering our 30th Anniversary Year. There will be a packed programme, with favourites such as Mad May Mile and Dinner With The Stars being joined by exciting new nights and fundraising events.

The fundraising theme this year is Birchwood Highland’s Year of Happiness and all year we will be exploring the link between physical health, mental health and happiness in everything we do in 2017. Some research suggests that we are born with 48% of our demeanour hard-wired, that another 40% is based on recent life events and that 12% is up to us. We want to embrace that 12% and make it work for us!

So whether it’s running the marathon, taking on the Himalayas, or dressing up like a bunch of grapes for Mad May Mile, we’ll be bringing the happy to a face near you!


Movies to ‘Bring the Happy’

As part of Birchwood Highland’s Year of Happiness, we’ve been interviewing people across the region to create a video library of ‘What makes you happy?’ films. All produced by Rachael MacPherson, our new Film and Video Production Officer, the short films are a snapshot of what matters to the people in our community. They may also serve as springboards for making us see what we could value in our own lives, too. 

This month we hear from three wise men: Roy Mackenzie, Business Development Consultant at DP Digital Media, Terry Cowan, Assistant Chief Executive of the Highland Reserve Forces and Cadets Association, and Stephen Hoban, Digital Systems Sales Executive of Highland Office Equipment. Keep an eye on our our YouTube channel and Facebook page for these films in the near future. 


Brand new Highland Life magazine column

Look out for our brand new column in Highland Life magazine. Free with the Inverness Courier, Strathspey Herald and Caithness Courier in the first week of every month, the magazine will feature a page exploring the different sides to happiness each month. Fundraising Manager Pauline Burnett will explore the ‘H’ word, covering everything from ‘what makes you happy?’ to ‘Does happiness matter?’ and ‘What if I can’t be happy?’. It’ll make for a great read and if you can’t catch it in the magazine, you’ll find it all on Birchwood Highland’s web page in the middle of each month. 


Birchwood Highland’s Wild & Beautiful calendar now on sale

Want a year of stunning images to adorn your wall? We have teamed up with Tim Winterburn, one of the Highland’s best landscape photographers, to produce a limited edition calendar for 2017. Featuring beautiful shots from around the Highlands it is just £8 (instead of £10) for Birchwood Highland’s staff and service users. It makes a wonderful gift for friends, family – or yourself! Go on, you know you’re worth it!

To order your copy of the A4 calendar call Veronica on 01463 236 507.

Christmas Lunch & Hula Hoops at Head Office

  A Christmas lunch at Head Office.

A Christmas lunch at Head Office.

After a head office meeting, we had our planned healthy working lives Christmas lunch, at which we had all agreed to try and take on the Hula Hoop challenge.  We had recently heard from our healthy working lives advisor that some services who plan healthy lunch walks, but don’t manage to take the time out of the office, have instead been doing a bit of Hula Hoop. We decided to give it a go with amusing results. Some of us were great, Emily ended up skipping instead, Annabel who happened just to pop into head office and was pulled into everything, tried both.  Anyway, we’ve all agreed to try and get that bit better at this new form of exercise in 2017! Oscar is also getting in the festive spirit and is keeping a close eye on his Christmas stocking! 

ISS Holidays, AGM and Christmas Parties!

Some of our Service Users took a trip to Fort George to watch the Military Tattoo on Saturday, 10th September.  It was a good day out which they enjoyed.  

The service users at Glendoe Terrace enjoyed their second holiday of the year.  Michael, Isabel and Paul were supported by staff to visit Stirling for a long weekend.  They enjoyed visiting the castle and going shopping.  All three thoroughly relish in the planning and going on holiday.  Where to next? 

Michael, Isabel and Paul from Glendoe Terrace celebrated their second year living in their own home.  They threw a wee lunch party for staff and service users to attend and (as always) had a lovely spread of food and a big cake, pink of course! 

It was the turn of Inverness Support Services to host the 2016 Annual General Meeting for Service Users.  We welcomed all the services; Lochaber, Easter Ross and Recovery Centre to Inshes Church.  All the services provided an update of their year and we even heard inspiring poems and recovery stories.  We enjoyed a catered lunch of sausages & mash and cheesecake for pudding.  There were activities after lunch and service users chose from going shopping; Rollerbowl or making Christmas jar candles.   The day was then closed by Linda passing the baton to Easter Ross Support Service for 2017.  Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the day and it is great to have everyone together to enjoy the day.  We are looking forward to 2017!

Inverness Support Services held their Christmas lunch on Wednesday 14th December at Brewers Fayre.  All staff and Service Users who attended enjoyed their 3 course meal and we held a raffle with lots of goodies and raised an amazing £306.00 for the Inverness service user fund.  Paul a service user from Glendoe Terrace, created a quiz for everyone to do.  Paul charged everyone £1.00 and the winner received £10.00 M&S voucher.  Paul was delighted that he raised £51.00 for the service user fund and everyone felt this was a great interaction between people.  We would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


- Lauren Bell, Business Support Officer


Annabel accepts massive £45,000 boost from Highland Cross on behalf of the Recovery Centre

  Annabel Mowat with Highland Cross’ Bill Walker, John Fraser, Calum Munro and Gerry Grant.

Annabel Mowat with Highland Cross’ Bill Walker, John Fraser, Calum Munro and Gerry Grant.

Organisers, supporters and volunteers gathered in Inverness in November for a ceremony to celebrate the achievements of this year’s Highland Cross event - and discover the total amount brought in by the annual dualthon.

A record £277,189 was raised by the runners and riders who took part in The Highland Cross, a 50-mile duathlon (20 miles on foot, 30 miles on bike) traversing the spectacular Scottish Highlands coast to coast, west to east from Kintail through Glen Affric and Strathglass to Beauly. That’s a cumulative total of £4.4 million raised for the Highlands in the event’s 34-year history.

Annabel Mowat gratefully accepted a cheque for £45,000 on behalf of the charity, which will fund a vital new social space at the charity’s Recovery Centre in Inverness. 

Annabel said: “We’re delighted to be recipients of such a significant gift from the Highland Cross. I want you to know that involvement with the Highland Cross has taken many of us at the Recovery Centre on an important journey – there is something quite powerful and not necessarily easily definable in planning and working together equally as a team of service users, staff and Board members on how we were to meet our responsibilities to the event organisers.

We had to work out the logistics of getting us all to Beauly and back, and importantly ensuring that we all helped with the smooth running of the event, following and complying with instruction.

We learnt from and with each other; supporting and being supported. Birchwood Highland’s mission statement is Recovery, Inclusion and Independence and our involvement with the Highland Cross helped with all three, and we had great fun!

All the work that we do at the Recovery Centre is based upon these concepts and is aimed at assisting people to take control of their lives and move forward in the face of enduring mental health issues. We very much adopt an outward facing approach encouraging people to become active members of the local community as far as they want and are able.

   Annabel Mowat receives The Highland Cross cheque from Angela Knapp, one of the event’s key volunteers.

 Annabel Mowat receives The Highland Cross cheque from Angela Knapp, one of the event’s key volunteers.

I think it’s fair to say we were inspired, amazed and in awe of the competitors and their fantastic achievement on the day in completing the course and raising such a lot of money. For many of us it was a catalyst for discussions when we got back on getting fitter, walking more.

Now to the award itself. Highland Cross has very generously donated £45,000 to Birchwood Highland. That’s a huge amount and for a not for profit organisation, with a tight budget, it proved a lifeline. We were dreaming of a sun lounge to provide a much needed space to aid mental health recovery and to help us promote socialisation and the recovery model we work to.

Significant and enduring mental health issues can be a real barrier to what a lot of folks take for granted - for instance what sounds like simple things such as sitting talking to others, sharing opinion, eating meals together – can be so important.

When we first thought how vital some additional social space was for us, we then considered the cost it seemed like many, many years away, so to say we are delighted to have had a successful application is to understate how we feel. Residents and staff alike are really chuffed.

And the sun lounge, which not so long ago seemed like a million miles away for us, is now unbelievably near completion. It will very shortly become that vital social space for the people we support, thanks to the generosity of spirit of Highland Cross’ organisers, participants and sponsors. On behalf of everyone at the Recovery Centre - thank you.

Work is almost completed on the new sun lounge at the Recovery Centre and it is hoped the vital space will be ready to use by early 2018, with the Highland Cross team as special guests at the opening ceremony.

This year six charities received a cash injection by The Highland Cross and one of its organisers, Calum Munro, was delighted to reveal that a further seven charities will benefit now that the final figure has been tallied.

Speaking to the gathered supporters and volunteers, Calum said: “The work you do makes the Highlands proud – you are amazing individuals.” Along with co-founder of the event Gerry Grant, Calum is the recipient of a shiny new MBE for their efforts. He added: “This is for the team - without your commitment, sweat, time, leave from work and lofts stacked full of Highland Cross stuff – we couldn’t do it. I will wear it with immense pride, but I will wear it for you.”


A New Sun Lounge at the Recovery Centre

Here are some photos of the Sun Lounge that has been built this year to provide additional social space for residents at the Recovery Centre. This has been made possible partly thanks to generous funding from Highland Cross. Almost completed, it will make a considerable difference to the availability of space in the recovery centre for residents to be able to relax, socialise with colleagues, friends and an additional space outside of their own room/flats where they can sit down with staff should they wish. All we need now is some sun to lounge in! 

Car Park TLC at Head Office

Head Office Administrator Sarah showing how flexible she can be – rising to the challenge of keeping the parking in order at Tomnahurich Street by drawing in white lines. Thanks to Veronica for helping out too!

Aspire 2 Be, School information Sessions 

Aspire to Be at Birchwood Highland have had the opportunity to lead information sessions for pupils at Inverness Royal Academy, and Gairloch High School to highlight some key facts about mental health, the importance of building personal resilience through life’s ups and downs, and how we can each build our own unique tool kit to assist us in staying well. This is also an opportunity to equip young people with signposting information to services that may be of help to them or a friend, either now or in the future. Evaluation of sessions , enables us to develop these to best meet young people’s needs, and to learn from young people what they feel the priority is for information.

For example, when we asked young people “What do you think is the most important information for young people to have about mental health?” their answers included:

“You’re not alone”

“How to help friends etc”

“Support and diagnosis”

“How many others are also mentally ill”

“Knowing that they’re not the only one”

“Where to get help”

“How to help others”

“Speak to people”

“To talk”

“There is help”

“That mental health issues are not all about image”

“Knowing that people are out there for you”

“To have confidence to speak to others”

We also asked pupils to write one sentence that summed up their experience of the information session, and these included: 

“It felt more accessible and friendly than some other talks”

“I thought it was eye opening”

“It showed me another way of thinking with the tool box thing”

“There was a lot of information to take on board”

“Learned to ignore the stigma”

“Good as I know what to do or how to help someone”

Read about our Talking to Adults about Mental Health booklet on our news section

Lost for Words

Three taster sessions of creative writing workshops were run by Aspire 2 Be, in conjunction with Moniack Mhor. Participants were gently guided through activities to develop writing skills and to try out new approaches by tutor, John Glenday. This included looking at other writing, using objects and words to spark a beginning, and resulted in the sharing of really interesting writing and ideas. This was all helped with a cuppa and some snacks to keep our energy levels up to support all that creativity! Feedback from people who took part was positive. 

Moniack Mhor provide a wide range of creative writing activities for people of all ages and stages of writing, including for budding song writers, with details at:

- Linda Birnie, Community Services Manager/Aspire 2 Be


Combatting Loneliness and Isolation

The VHS (Voluntary Health Scotland) Conference &AGM centred on Loneliness- a Threat to Scotland’s Health: Working together to combat Isolation and was on Thursday, 24th November 2016, Roxburghe Hotel, Edinburgh. Key messages are the risks to physical health (cardio vascular health) of loneliness are on a par with smoking 15 cigarettes per day. There is also an impact of social; and economic deprivation in exacerbating the situation. Otherwise loneliness and isolation impacts mental health throughout society from children to elderly, males and females, with a particular concern for risk for suicide for men.

 James Jopling, Samaritanshighlighted:

“In 2015 there were 672 deaths from suicide in Scotland, the majority of whom were men. Men in their mid-years (30-54) are at the highest proportionate risk in Scotland but suicide rates also start to increase for men around 65-69 right through to 85+. There is a strong deprivation effect, with the suicide rate more than three times higher in the most deprived fifth of the population than in the least deprived fifth (25 compared with 8 per 100,000 population respectively).

Loneliness and social isolation are hugely complex. Interactions with suicide and suicidal feelings are also complex. What we do know is different measures of loneliness and social isolation all show a relationship with suicide rates; it can be a risk factor itself, or a catalyst for other risk factors, or something that underscores a lifetime of adversity. It is important to note that not all people who feel lonely or are measurably socially isolated will feel suicidal or experience suicidal crisis, but it does increase the risk. 

Loneliness is in the top five reasons why people contact the Samaritans. The US Suicide Prevention Strategy recognises the concept of connectedness and the Samaritans want it to be a part of the Scottish Suicide Prevention Strategy as well. “

Bereavement, long term illness etc.  etc.  all can make isolationworse, as you can imagine.  For example a child going through serious health issues can become isolated from their peers while off school, and can be bullied on return, particularly if they look different , for example as a consequence of the illness or treatment. 

Lots of good work going on to combat loneliness and isolation this issue was highlighted, including men’s sheds, music sessions in care homes, book groups (… including where no one actually reads the book… they just meet up and chat!!) etc. etc. The social connection seems tothe key aspect rather than the nature of the activity itself. There  is a national strategy planned for next year in this area. Key Points from table discussions about what a strategy on loneliness and social isolation should look like: 

1. Raise awareness and use positive language

2. Support what already works well

3. Policies should support social connectedness and reduce stigma

4. A role for all sectors

5. Build on other public strategies: for example, housing, environment and mental health

6. Prevention

7. No short-termism: invest for the future

8. Focus on life events and transitions that make everyone vulnerable

9. Start early and go from cradle to grave

10. Make preventing loneliness a cultural change

 11. Enabling not prescribing

12. Recognise loneliness is a social determinant of health

13. National and Local

14. Value caring for each other in our communities

15. Clarify what counts as success

16. Create a social movement

Please see below for information speakers presentation power points and some other related information.

Two new loneliness blogs:

Katie’s blog: Loneliness a threat to Scotland’s health

Su’s blog: Community Renaissance – How to unblock the straw

View the speakers presentations and the twitter Storify report of the discussions from the day. 

Linda Birnie 

Birchwood Highland Connect

Birchwood Highland Community Support Services have been working with Open Brolly to develop "Birchwood Highland Connect" a remote support service that enables a service user to link with a support worker for a scheduled support session without the need for the support worker to travel to the service user's home.

This is made possible through an electronic tablet in the service user's home being used to link with the support worker on a computer in the service staff base through a video link, using bespoke technology, developed for this purpose. Documents and information, may be shared during the session.   An initial pilot will involve around ten service users across Community Support Services, and learning from how well this is working will inform future developments. We hope that service users will benefit from getting more face to face contact during their session, and therefore optimal value from their support time. Service users can choose to mix and match virtual visits with more traditional visits. With the unique geography and topography of the Highlands all community services serve some remote and rural areas, with visits in Lochaber at times involving the support worker catching a ferry to visit service user's homes.

Birchwood Highland Connect offers the opportunity to take a different approach to simply trying to overcome distances through travel. Listening and learning from how service users experience this approach will be crucial to ensuring the service is tailored to people's needs, and is another tool we can offer to help overcome loneliness and isolation.

Should you or anyone you support wish further information about this new aspect of the service, please contact Linda Birnie, Lauren Bell, or the Team Manager or Team Leader in the relevant area, namely:

Lochaber: Johnan Cameron

Easter Ross: Lynn Keith

Inverness: June Jeffrey or Lorraine Davidson.

Upcoming events

December 24th 2016

Iain McLaughlin & The Outsiders @ Market Bar, Inverness


Local musician, producer and label owner Iain has been very supportive of Birchwood Highland’s Music Is Life workshops through his band and coming up to do a talk for the service users. Now he and his band are donating proceeds from their gig at The Market Bar to Birchwood Highland. Join us for a hooly on Christmas Eve!

January 20th 2017 

Tune Bingo @ The Lovat Hotel, Beauly

A night of fun and music from the 60s, 70s, 80s and all things Country at The Lovat is a fundraiser for two of Birchwood Highland’s trekkers taking on the Himalayas in April. Tune Bingo is just like normal bingo, but instead of numbers you have to mark off the songs as you go. Massive fun and usually ending in a sing-along session! Bingo cards are just £3 per person – bring a team and support the Recovery Centre’s Rosie Deverell and fellow trekker Fiona Mackenzie!

January 27th 2017

Speed Games Night @ SoBar, Castle Street Inverness

Join us for a night of hilarity, prizes and games for everyone at SoBar.

We’ll have speed pool, prize darts, mini race night and lots more ways to win great prizes and have fun with a capital FUN! Bring a team along and have a blast!

Tickets are just £2.50 and it’ll be the perfect antidote to January. Call Veronica on 01463 236 507 for tickets.




Training Dates

Medication training - 21st January 2017, 10 am to 1pm at the Recovery Centre

Medication refresher training - 22nd January 2017, 10pm to 1pm at the Recovery Centre

SafeTALK – 15th May 2017, 1pm to 5pm at the Spectrum Centre

SafeTALK – 11th September 2017, 1pm to 5pm at the Spectrum Centre

SafeTALK – 13th November, 1pm to 5pm at the Spectrum Centre


Starters & Leavers

Wishing all the best to the following staff who are moving on from Birchwood Highland:

Nikki Jasiczak-Cole – Relief Support Worker LSS

Joan Mackay – Relief Support Worker LSS

Michelle Keir – Business Support Officer Head Office

Catherine Keith – BHRC Team Administrator

Craig Brown – Support Worker BHRC


A warm welcome to:

Jordan Hammond – HO Fundraising Assistant

Rachael Macpherson – Film and Video Production Officer HO

Adriana Klick – Support Worker BHRC

Nikki Ross – Support Worker BHRC

Ricky Gallagher – Relief Support Worker BHRC

Emily Murdoch – ERSS Support Worker

Caroline Macpherson – Support Worker LSS


Policy Updates

Use of Email policy

Recruitment & Selection policy

Environmental and Recycling policy

Environmental statement of intent

Clozapine policy

Clozapine Risk Assessment

Exploitation of service users policy

Fire policy – Telford Road

Healthy Eating Policy

Sharps/Needle Stick Injury Policy

Asbestos Policy

Working at Heights policy

Policy on Dealing with Behaviour that Challenges

Mental Health and Wellbeing Policy

Display Screen Equipment