Support in Mind will benefit from bus tie-up – Colin Leslie

Support in Mind Scotland was delighted to ring the bell loud and proud this month to celebrate the announcement that we have been chosen as Lothian Buses’ Charity of Choice for 2020 and 2021.

***** FREE FIRST USE PR PICS *****  Members of Lothian and the Support In Mind Scotland charity join together for the announcement that Lothian will be supporting the charity for the next two years  In pic............    (c) Wullie Marr Photography
***** FREE FIRST USE PR PICS ***** Members of Lothian and the Support In Mind Scotland charity join together for the announcement that Lothian will be supporting the charity for the next two years In pic............ (c) Wullie Marr Photography

More than 2,500 people work for Lothian, so we consider it a huge ­honour that such a prestigious ­company selected us in their staff vote and chose to put mental health and workplace wellbeing high up on their agenda.

With our friends at Scottish ­Association for Mental Health (SAMH) also ­chosen as Edinburgh Airport’s ­Charity of the Year for 2020, it means that we can look forward to many positive new developments around mental health throughout the ­Lothians area and beyond.

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As part of the bidding process, we were handed the opportunity to go and talk to Lothian staff at a number of their sites, including Musselburgh, Livingston, Longstone, Marine, Waverley Bridge and their central depot. We were welcomed with open arms by drivers, engineers and office staff, and one of the most uplifting aspects of the mini-roadshow was the ­appetite among workers of all ages to embrace their mental health and to try and recognise it on the same level as physical health.

Many stepped forward to share powerful stories with us, either relating to their own personal experiences or those of loved ones. It was clear that our work and the compassionate support that we offer had struck a chord. Applying the widely recognised statistic that one in four of us will experience a mental health issue, it clearly affects a significant proportion of the Lothian workforce

Throughout these positive conversations, it was evident that there is an increased willingness among ­people to open up more about any issues they experience and seek help if or when they need it, and we hope the tide continues to turn.

It was an eye-opener for us to ­discover what a high-pressure job being a bus driver can potentially be. Surprisingly, a cursory online scan of ‘most stressful jobs’ fails to place this demanding role high on the listings, but there seems to be little doubt it is an oversight.

The men and women behind the wheel of public buses shoulder a great deal of responsibility for their passengers, as well as juggling shift patterns, incessant roadworks and the challenges that come with ­delivering a slick service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and carrying 2.3 million customers a week. Like us, Lothian’s number one priority is people, and that’s why we are so well matched. We are literally the charity on Lothian’s doorstep as our long-standing Edinburgh Service, The Stafford Centre, is based in Broughton Street, just a few hundred yards from the company’s Annandale Street headquarters.

The Stafford Centre has more than 1,100 visits a month and has been supporting people in and around the city with their mental health for more than 30 years. Now we are looking forward with great excitement to the lasting difference this partnership can make to the Stafford Centre and the work that we do.

As well as reaping the benefits of colleague fundraising, we want to build relationships by encouraging Lothian staff to come into the centre as ­supporters and volunteers and to learn more about this vibrant ­community hub.

We also want to engage with ­passengers, and to help make them aware of the ­support that is available from our organisation and others. To help promote our services, we will be ­displaying mental health information on Lothian’s fleet and will soon be unveiling our very own branded double-decker bus, wrapped in our logo and charity tartan.

The Stafford Centre provides expert one-to-one support, benefits advice, carers support and group activities, including a music sanctuary, creative group and walking group. It offers hot meals through its volunteer-led café and hosts a ­weekly veterans group, and unique mental health radio station. All of these ­activities impressed the ­Charity ­Committee at Lothian and we can’t wait to start developing this new ­partnership.

Gaynor Marshall, communications director at Lothian Buses, said: “Lothian is absolutely delighted to announce Support in Mind as our Charity of Choice for 2020/2021. Awareness of mental health and wellbeing is hugely important and ­colleagues from across the business made a real connection with the Charity’s ethos and values.

“We look forward to working with Support in Mind over the next two years and hope that our partnership will help to both raise awareness of and develop a better understanding of some of the challenges faced by those suffering from mental health issues.”

For more information about our partnership and the Stafford Centre, please visit www.sims-lothian.com

Colin Leslie, fundraising and communications manager, Support in Mind Scotland.