SNP Councillor Lorna Douglas highlights the important work of Jean's Bothy in her Councillor Column


ONE year ago, I attended an open day at what was then known as Jean’s Cottage in Helensburgh – the bungalow on the corner of East and South King Street.

The open day was to engage the community, in particular individuals, families and groups who either have, live or work with people affected by mental health or wellbeing issues and to get ideas that would create and shape a ‘mental health hub’ for people living in Helensburgh and Lomond and the organisations that help them.

A year on from that I was delighted to attend another open day at the renamed ‘Jean’s Bothy’ recently and saw how this building and the energy inside it is shaping up for the hub’s official launch later this month.

It is amazing how the combination of creative thinking, vision and the will and determination of individuals and groups who are passionate about a particular subject can take an idea of an alternative way of looking at something, in this case mental health, and together have the confidence to drive it forward and to turn it into a reality.

It’s great to see people and organisations embracing this move in a different direction, from the more traditional model of providing care for an individual in a clinical setting, to one of creating a community for those individuals and their family and friends.

It’s also amazing how the environment and atmosphere of a building and its surrounding grounds can change – not just because of a lick of paint being applied, or the grass and hedges being cut and some new flooring being put in, but by the energy and hopes of the people who use it.

The stigma around mental health has to be challenged – not just to help the individuals whose lives are affected by mental health or wellbeing issues, but to help those people’s families too.

Silencing or hiding the issue, as has happened too often in the past, will only make matters worse for all concerned.

Jean’s Bothy, as the mental health hub for this area, is a physical statement that says this: mental health issues are not going to be hidden away in Helensburgh and Lomond. Nor will they be hushed or silenced.

For this building will be talked about, and most importantly, it will provide a new space for the voices of the people in our community who use it.