Support in Mind Scotland has doubled its number of charity ambassadors, with Gary Little, Louisa Thomson, Marius Pelser and Gillian Henderson all taking on voluntary roles to raise mental health awareness and promote the work of the organisation.

We have welcomed our new batch of ambassadors on the 100th day of the year (Tuesday, 10 April) – the first of three ‘1 in 100’ awareness days, reflecting the statistic that 1 in 100 people will experience a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

The quartet join our original line-up of ambassadors (pictured below) - Scott and Jenny Hastings, Dane Thomson and Nicole Ross - who took on their roles in 2016.

‘Big’ Gary Little is one of the biggest acts on the Scottish comedy circuit and has just returned from a series of dates in Australia. The Glaswegian has been a valued supporter of SiMS in recent years, and has spoken candidly about his own struggles with depression and the effects it has had on his life.

Gary, below, said: “Often the hardest thing to do is to seek help when you need it. I know from my own experiences that opening up can be a big help. One in four of us are affected by a mental health problem, and we must continue to tackle the stigma that too often surrounds mental illness.”

Little has referenced his own battle with depression in his routine, and he explained: “When I have spoken about depression on stage, the feedback I have had from people in the audience has been really positive. If I’m up there on stage laughing at my own experiences there may be people in the audience who can relate to that."

Louisa Thomson is an NHS mental health nurse in Fife and used her place in last year’s Miss Great Britain final as a platform to highlight mental health issues. She also helped launch our charity tartan with her twin sister Christina last December.

Louisa, from Glenrothes, said:  “Support in Mind Scotland do invaluable work with people experiencing ongoing mental illness. My passion is trying to help raise awareness of mental health and reduce the stigma attached to the term. I think it is important for us to talk about anxiety and depression. However we need to take that step further and talk openly about severe and enduring illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.”

Marius Pelser, above, was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in 2016 as a result of his time in the South African police force. He is a keen supporter of the charity and is eager to raise awareness of PTSD and promote the benefits physical activity can have on mental wellbeing.

Marius, now a business architect based in Edinburgh, said: “My diagnosis ticked all the boxes such as flashbacks, disassociation, hyper arousal and anxiety and as an added extra I also developed some OCD tendencies. I am fortunate that my symptoms are manageable through exercise. 

“I realised how many of my former colleagues were struggling with mental health problems as a result of the work we did. I then realised how many people around me struggle with various forms of mental health issues and decided that I wanted to do more to help. I felt that raising awareness was a good starting point.”

Edinburgh-based business operations manager Gillian Henderson completes the new intake of ambassadors. Gillian works for Lloyds Banking Group, who are midway through a two-year charity partnership with Mental Health UK, of which SiMS is a founding member. Gillian plans to use her new role to focus on mental health in the workplace.

Gillian said: "After working in a large organisation for over 15 years I am more and more aware of how we need to take care of our mental health within the work place.  The way the workplace operates is changing and we need to make sure that we are giving the right level of support and visibility around mental health."