I am proud that we end the year, and indeed the decade, with much to celebrate.

Our Digital Advent calendar captured a number of our achievements this year. Behind the first window we read about the growing impact of the Distress Brief Intervention work in Inverness, that reached an impressive referral milestone, and has now been extended to 16 and 17-year-olds. Just recently, there was further success when this innovative programme won a prestigious Scottish Health Award in the Care for Mental Health category. 

This award is recognition not just of the amazing work carried out by our team in Inverness, but of the ground-breaking partnership between front line emergency services, the third sector, and the Scottish Government that is changing the lives of people in distress across Scotland.

This is not the only Award we have received this year. In May, we were awarded a GSK/King’s Fund Impact Award; and in June we were moved by the personal story of Laura Reid who overcame deep personal sadness to highlight the issue of suicide and who became Charity Champion of the year, representing our organisation at the Scottish Charity Awards.

Receiving an award is special because it is recognition from others outside of the organisation of the hard work, commitment and dedication of the people who work for us, either as paid staff or volunteers.

Awards also recognise the huge support we have from our members, supporters and Ambassadors who get involved, attend events, participate in fundraising, and tell their stories to raise awareness.

This sobering insight into the poverty of contacts that some people experience day on day is a reminder of why we do what we do. This year, for me, has been about understanding and talking about ‘connection’ and how we need to find ways of connecting people not just to services that they need, but to other people.

One of our rural projects, Highlands and Islands Connections, has been working with local people in the Uists and Benbecula and in Tobermory, trying to understand the link between good mental health and being connected. One of the simple but effective practical outcomes has been a joint project with the local Co-op staff to raise money for ‘chatty benches’ outside of the shops to encourage people to sit and talk.

Whether in a remote part of Mull, or the centre of Edinburgh, making sure people are connected to their community and to each other is a vital part of what we do. We support around 1,500 people a week across Scotland and what those people tell us more than anything else is that our services provide space and time for people to come together and share; we create a community to which people feel they can belong and be themselves. This, for me, is the real success story behind the windows in our calendar.

At the end of this award-winning year, I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has supported our work: our funders, donors, supporters, Ambassadors – all vital to ensuring we can keep doing what we do.

I am personally very grateful to all of our Volunteer Directors, who give their time and expertise to ensure the organisation stays focused on the issues that matter most to the people we support. This year we said goodbye to two of our long-standing Directors, Colin Murchie and Annette Calder, and we say a huge thank you and wish them well for the future.

However we could not do what we do without our staff and volunteers who go above and beyond what is expected of them to make life better for everyone we support. We say we are a valued-based organisation and the people who work with us demonstrate those values every single day.

To all of our members and supporters – thank you so much for your continued support. On behalf of the whole SiMS team I wish you a Happy Christmas and a peaceful new year.