Scots men are used to stereotypes being thrown in their direction. From surviving on a daily diet of haggis and Irn Bru to supposedly being tight, we must have heard them all. And what about that other one that we are not typically known for opening up and talking about how we feel? Okay, well maybe there is something in that.

Whether it is in our DNA or generational, Scottish men do have something of a reputation for hiding behind bravado or humour to mask any hint of vulnerability, anxiety or low mood. However, there are encouraging signs that the emotional tide is turning, even in the most testing of circumstances.

An example I would like to share is the work of Mental Mechanics, a new amateur football team established by a group of young men in memory of their friend, Charlie Tull, 24, who they lost to suicide in 2019 after a battle with depression.

Charlie’s life and loss inspired his friends Fin Anderson and Jon Fraser to create a pioneering team that promotes mental health awareness and encourages open conversations and young men to share their feelings.

Co-founder and president Fin explained:

“The focus of the club is to create an environment where young men can speak openly about mental health while enjoying playing football with friends. They do not have to have a mental illness to join the team, but they have to be willing to create an environment where they can allow their team-mates or themselves to speak freely about mental health.”

The name Mental Mechanics stems from the group’s roots in Forres, where their local team is Forres Mechanics, and while the lads maintain strong links with their home community, Fin and his friends now live in Edinburgh where they have been admitted to the local amateur leagues.

The coronavirus pandemic has thus far thwarted the start of their first season, but Mental Mechanics are ready and raring to go as soon as restrictions are lifted. Off the pitch, they are already doing some fine work.

The club has a strong charitable core, and was set up with the help of CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably), an organisation at the forefront of the movement against suicide. Now the Mechanics have embarked on a new partnership with Support in Mind Scotland. We have started joining the team for monthly drop-in sessions, where the players will explore a range of mental health-themed topics.

The story of Charlie and his friends has many parallels with another young man lost to suicide, Calum Reid, 21, from Dunfermline.

Calum’s mother Laura and his friendship group have provided incredible support for our charity since suffering this awful loss in August 2017 by organising an annual memorial football game in his name.

Calum’s memory lives on and his friends have now taken another bold step by appearing in a short film which will premiere at the Derby Film Festival this month.

A Song Still Inside focuses on healing and the important role communication plays in that process. Interviews with Calum’s friends narrate the story of Mac (played by Paul Brannigan of The Angel’s Share), an oil rig worker struggling through a similar situation of losing a friend to suicide. Set in Fraserburgh, Mac eventually faces his fears and opens up. Touching on men's inability to open up and talk about their feelings, the powerful film turns the volume up on a silence that has proven deadly.

Suicide statistics in Scotland shock us all, particularly those affecting men: the latest available figures show that the probable suicide rate for males was three times that for females. Suicide is one of the most complex and sensitive challenges we face in society, but there is a growing collective will to confront it, and it was encouraging to see the United to Prevent Suicide movement launched in Scotland earlier this year.

Talking more openly about our feelings and breaking the stereotype that we Scots men clam up has to be a welcome starting point. Kudos to the friends of Calum Reid and Charlie Tull for leading the way.


If you're struggling with your mental health, we're here for you. Our information line is open M-F, 9-4pm on 0300 323 1545 or you can email [email protected]. You can also message us on Facebook

We are also part of the recently launched Clic online community forum, which is open 24/7. Full of information, it is a place where you can open up about your mental health with others in similar situations. Visit www.clic-uk.org/ to sign up for free.