Walking your way to wisdom

This morning, walkers explored Edinburgh streets in the hopes of finding answers to their meaningful questions.

The event was hosted by a social-enterprise called Street Wisdom as part of this year’s Fire Starter Festival. Street Wisdom are known for their mind-opening walking events which are held all over the world.

Participants of the Street Wisdom Walk have the opportunity to broaden their horizons and step out of their comfort zone in a three-hour exploration of Edinburgh’s streets. Despite sounding rather complex, the general idea of a Street Wisdom Walk is really quite simple.

Mark Brown, COO of Street Wisdom

Mark Brown, the COO of Smart Wisdom spoke to EN4 News about what to expect during a Street Wisdom Walk,

“First of all, each person must choose a question they would like some fresh thinking on. The question could be personal or work-related. The experience then takes place over 3 hours and is made of three steps of equal length.”

According to Mark, the three stages of a Street Wisdom Walk are as follows:

Step 1: Tune up your senses

Group members are guided through a series of short exercises that are designed to allow them to tune into themselves and the world around them.

Step 2: Look for answers

Each person will set off on their own quest in search of insights, ideas, and inspiration. By paying attention to the signs, signals, clues, and invitations received from the streets, they will hopefully be able to answer their question.

Step 3: Gather and share

The group then gather together and share their experience by reflecting on what happened, what they learned and how they might apply the insights and ideas they have gained back to their original question.

A group of Street Wisdom walkers

“It’s a combination of mindfulness and psychology – participants have space and time to slow down, switch off from distractions and switch on their creative, problem-solving skills. The results can be profound, providing deep insights and innovative solutions.”

Each walk is run by volunteers and is completely free of charge. However, due to a high level of interest, it is important to sign up quickly for a Street Wisdom Walk as spaces are limited and there is a very long waiting list.

If you would like to learn more about Street Wisdom or to discover the nearest walk happening near you, please visit here.

Credit for all photographs: Street Wisdom

New Mental Health support group launches in Edinburgh

According to the charity Samaritans, men are three times more likely to die by suicide than women in the UK and the rate of deaths by suicide is significantly rising. With suicide being the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK, it is apparent that something needs to be done.

Andy Roberts was 23 years old when he tragically took his own life. Shocked and devastated by their loss, his family became determined to prevent as many families from experiencing what they had to.

Andy’s brother-in-law and professional rugby player, Luke Ambler, decided to create a positive from the situation and this is where the idea of Andy’s Man Club came from.

Andy’s Man Club was founded in 2016 and has since grown rapidly, from the first group of 9 people in West Yorkshire to 25 groups running throughout the UK with weekly attendances of around 700 hundred and engagement of social media in the millions.

The charity has now expanded again, launching their first meeting in Edinburgh, based in North Merchiston Club.

The Scottish Government launched a suicide prevention action plan last year, pledging to reduce the number of suicides by 20 per cent by 2022.

However, with suicide in Scotland at five-year high support charities like Andys Man Club are needed.

Speaking to Edinburgh Live, Volunteer James Allison, who helped set up Edinburgh’s branch discussed the importance of the group and their meetings: “There’s nothing more important than getting a man to walk through the door, that’s the first breakthrough – once you sit down.”

“It’s giving men the space to come and say what they want to say, where they can be open, not have anyone judging them, there’s no shame, there’s no guilt.”

Launching a new campaign, #itsokaytotalk, Andy’s Man Club has received support from a range of celebrities including Ricky Gervais.

The importance to ‘speak out’ has been emphasised recently with International Men’s Day taking place on Tuesday, earlier this week. The annual day of celebration coincides with Movember, the fundraising task which sees men grow their facial hair, both with an aim to raise awareness for men’s mental health problems.

International Men’s Day was relaunched in 1999, by Dr Jerome Teelucksingh, a history lecturer from Trinidad and Tobago.

Recognition of the event grows each year and over the last two decades, a variety of themes have been celebrated by many people and organisations. The theme this year was “Making a Difference for Men and Boys”, which many have used to emphasise the need to give more support from the men who need it.

Andy’s Man Group will run at North Merchiston Club, Watson Cresent, Edinburgh, EH11 1EP from 7 pm to 9 pm and check out their website here.

Rats have been taught how to drive tiny cars in exchange for treats

Rats have been taught how to drive miniature cars in exchange for sweet treats at the University of Richmond in the US. Scientists hope the unusual experiment can help in the treatment of mental health conditions in humans. Rats and humans share a lot of the same areas and neurochemicals which can make them useful in studies such as this.

The study is led by Dr Kelly Lambert, head of the University’s Behavioural Neuroscience Laboratory and is looking at non-pharmaceutical treatments in treating mental illness such as depression. The experiment used two groups of young rats both with different living environments. One group were housed in an ‘enriched environment’ with comfort and toys, and the other in a bleak, blank cage.

Tests then done on the rats’ faeces for stress hormones found differing results between the two groups however, both groups had higher levels of DHEA, a hormone which controls stress responses. The rats with a more stimulating environment were found to make better drivers and were more successful in operating their vehicle due to their brain’s ability to change over time which was triggered by their living conditions

Dr Lambert is working to the concept which she refers to as ‘behaviorceuticals: activities that release hormones that can ward off prolonged stress brought on by corticosterone, another hormone that affects brain function and stress response. She claims emotional resilience is one of the first lines of defence against mental illnesses like depression, and they hope to learn what behaviours can build that up in the hopes for non-pharmaceutical treatments.


‘Stress and pressure’ contributing to rise in youth suicide rate in Scotland, says local support group

By Heather Miller


The coordinator of Edinburgh Nightline has told EN4 News that “stress and pressure” has contributed towards a rise in suicide rates of young people across Scotland.

Suicide prevention is the theme for World Mental Health Day, which is being celebrated across the world today.

According to Samaratans, the rate of deaths by suicide among under 25s in the UK increased by 23.7% last year, reaching 730 deaths in 2018. NHS Scotland statistics also show that the suicide rate for young people has increased in the past five years.

Edinburgh Nightline is a confidential support service, run by students for students. Olivia Fahy, who is the coordinator of Edinburgh Nightline, said young people are under more pressure than ever before, and that it has contributed to the rise.

“I think it is due to a lot of reasons” Fahy said. “There is a lot of pressure about what you are going to do with your future, more than ever so before.

“I think it is so important to have these conversations and to get as many people working together to reduce those statistics as much as possible. If you are worried about a friend or concerned it is so much better to have the awkward conversation. Just talking and being open and having someone you can always go to if things are getting tough.”

World Mental Health Day: The Pill and our Mental Health 

Mental Health from Rural Perspective 

World Mental Health Day celebrates the objective to raise awareness of mental health issues globally, it allows an opportunity for everyone to be educated and understand the issues of mental health. It was first celebrated by the World Federation of Mental Health in 1992 and has been commemorated each year since on October 10th.

Mental health issues are the largest cause of disability within the United Kingdom, anyone across the globe can be affected at any given moment in their lives.

“I think days like today are really important because it’s about breaking down the stigma and having a visual awareness of mental health, and that it is completely okay to not be okay all of the time,” Fahy said.

“It’s about opening up conversations, just about the day to day wellbeing. It doesn’t have to be a big revelation, just having conversations with your friends and staff about how you are feeling.”

Gordon Ruddiman recounted an experience he had with a client while working as a community worker in Fife.


If you or someone you know needs help, FAMS can be contacted on 07736 326 062, while the Samaritans can be reached on 116 123 or at jo@samaritans.org.

If you or someone you know would like to talk to someone, please call Edinburgh Nightline on 0131 557 4444.

Hollywood film ‘Joker’ hits cinema screens tomorrow, but does it glamourise violence?

Image by Warner Bros

By Laura McCulloch and Heather Miller

Straying from the classic Batman trilogy films, Joaquin Phoenix takes us on the personal journey of the infamous DC Comics villain as he descends into insanity.

Joaquin Pheonix has already been heavily praised by critics for his portrayal of the early life of Arthur Fleck, a failing comedian who longs for human connection and acknowledgement from society.  Fleck’s isolation pushes him towards madness and crime after being discarded by everyone in Gotham City. 

The main themes of mental health and isolation form the story’s skeleton and is said to ‘blow’ it’s audience away. 

Moving away from the original Superhero style movie and no mention of Batman within the film, the Joker is the focus. His unfamiliar intentions are set to impress viewers and leave them on the edge of their seats. The tale is described to be almost as twisted as it’s core character and deals with the contrast between evil and good and at times edges towards rebellion.

These crime-related, violent scenes have raised debates over the use of violence in films. Families affected by the 2019 Aurora cinema shootings have complained to Warner Brothers regarding the aggressive scenes the film shows.

However, director Todd Philips has defended his film, saying that gun violence is a serious issue among society and should be discussed.

We spoke to local film fanatics who gave their say on Joker’s already controversial reputation:

Children’s Mental Health Week rounds off fourth consecutive year

(Credit: Let The People Speak)

Children’s Mental Health Week comes to an end in the UK this weekend after the ‘Place2Be’ campaign received an overwhelming amount of support on social media.

Overseeing school talks and spreading awareness has been the main focus for mental health organisations this week after figures were released late last year showing that one in eight people under the age of 19 suffered from mental health issues.

The ‘mental health of young people and children survey’ conducted by the NHS was launched in November 2018 and provided evidence to suggest that one in five children were victims of cyberbullying, statistics many organisations have highlighted to underscore the importance of awareness campaigns like Children’s Mental Health Week this year.

Place2be‘ has focused this week around their ‘Health: Inside and Out’ campaign which attempts to spread awareness around the physical wellbeing of children and how it can affect their mental state.

However, much attention has now been drawn towards the social media aspect of the campaign after reports surfaced of children attempting to commit suicide as a result of online bullying in the past few months.

According to government surveys, at least 40% of parents are concerned about their child’s wellbeing in relation to online bullying.

Many public figures have been spreading awareness on Twitter using ‘#ChildrensMentalHealthWeek’, sparking high levels of online debate regarding recent issues.

Tom Watson, deputy leader of the Labour party used the hashtag to push for better access to arts and sports in schools:

Mick Coyle, presenter for Radio City Live in Liverpool, highlighted a public art project that saw 200 pairs of childrens’ shoes laid out, representing the annual suicide rate for young people:

Government proposals have now been put forth as a part of Children’s Mental Health Week and MP’s are now expected to introduce sanctions on social media websites in order to tackle the ongoing cyberbullying crisis.


Museums over meditation for under 30s?

Visiting museum and gallery spaces seem to be a more popular way of dealing with stress and anxiety than mindfulness or mediation, according to a recent study conducted for a national arts charity. 

The report commissioned by the Art Fund at the end of last year showed 63% of people under the age of 30 would visit a museum or gallery as a way of relieving stress or anxiety, the same percentage that talking to a friend or family member received.

In response to the report, that found under 30s to be one of the most stressed generations, Art Fund have decided to increase the age for their under 26 national passes to under 30, allowing for a larger number of people to benefit from discounted exhibition entrance fees.

A spokesperson for Art Fund told EN4 News: “We give around seven million pounds a year at the moment, a lot of that which is facilitated through our national art passes.”

This change was launched earlier this week but is already said to be being “well received” they said.

They also said that the report as a whole showed “those who visit museums and galleries on a regular basis are more likely to have lower levels of stress and anxiety than those who have never visited one.”

The results found by the report, Art Fund believe, have further solidified the existing research around the benefits exposing oneself to arts and culture on a regular basis can have on a general wellbeing.

Museums and Galleries, with their cafes, bright open exhibition spaces, and interactive displays, are used for numerous activities that could lead to an increase feeling of wellness.


National Portrait Gallery. Photo by Megan Merino


Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow. Photo by Megan Merino


But it may not only be the act of going to these spaces that can be beneficial to mental health. Instillations around Scotland are tackling themes of mental wellness and self reflection to allow for an even more introspective cultural experience.

A current exhibit at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art aims to allow visitors to reflect on their feelings and state of mind through an interactive light instillation.

EN4 news spoke with curator of the HappyHere exhibition Màiri Lafferty.

Màiri Lafferty, Daskalopoulos Curator of Engagement at National Galleries of Scotland.

HappyHere uses an interactive board to allow visitors to answer seven questions that are then presented in the form of light and colour on a custom-built screen for an abstract visualisation of the thoughts and feelings associated with the responses.

The instillation is inside the Pig Rock Bothy, a small space in the grounds of the Modern Art Gallery.

Credits: There will be no Miracles Here- Nathan Coley       Everything Will Be Alright-Martin Creed 

Despite creating a space that facilitates self reflection, Màiri added that it was not the job of a curator to force emotions on the visitor, but instead to allow the space for a personal experience and interaction with art.



Another new Edinburgh based exhibition addressing the theme of wellbeing is Beings at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery opening on February 2.

We spoke to Richie Cummings, Outreach Officer at the National Galleries about the upcoming exhibition that will display the artwork of young people as a response to other pieces in the National Galleries’ collection.














The art of social prescribing

Last year the government began to fully embrace art and culture as an alternative means to benefit the wellbeing of the nation. GPs are now allowed to prescribe, or recommend, undertaking activities to do with sports, music, dance and art as part of a bid to improve people’s mental health.


Hannah Lavery, Learning and Engagement Coordinator at the Scottish Poetry Library. Photo credit: Iona Young


The NHS define social prescribing as ‘an approach (or range of approaches) for connecting people with non-medical sources of support or resources within the community which are likely to help with the health problems they are experiencing’. As well as mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, the idea is to prevent loneliness and social isolation which can later lead to mental health problems.

The University of Edinburgh Museums Services are embracing social prescribing with their pilot project ‘Prescribe Culture’. Their aim is to benefit the student community through community referral or non-pharmacological support.


Andy Shanks, University of Edinburgh Director of Student Wellbeing. Photo credit: Iona Young


The reason behind the project is an increase in students registering mental health issues. The increase could be attributed to more awareness around mental health and the facilities available, however other contributing factors must be taken in to account:

“1 in 4 people in the UK have a mental health disorder so it is really common for people to suffer. We now also have a bigger range of students from different backgrounds. And more people coming to university – it used to be 1 in 10 who went to university and now it’s more like 1 in 2,” explains Andy Shanks, University of Edinburgh Director of Student Wellbeing.

The rise in mental health issues in young adults in the student community can also be attributed to the 24 hour competitive culture. With social media people are always comparing themselves to others. This combined with pressure from families, working during university, crippling student debt and constant looming deadlines can be overwhelming.


Dr Ewan Clark, GP at Edinburgh University Health Service. Photo credit: Iona Young


Dr Ewan Clark, GP at the University Health Service, has also noticed the added pressure from the increase in student patients due to mental health issues: “there is less stigma and more awareness which is a positive thing, however it is also a burden”.

For him it is also important to remember that what suits one person does not suit another. However he sees social prescribing as a positive step forward:

“It can be used with other therapies or on its own. It is good for people who have tried everything, and (in comparison to some medication) it is a safe thing to do.”

The pilot project aims to work together with cultural organisations to use creativity as a form of early intervention and prevention of more serious mental health problems down the line. For them it is important to support University Student Support Officers, Campus GPs, nurses and other care professionals through developing a referral system which will allow the collaboration with the arts to be a clear and simple process.

This will begin with a healthcare, or allied health professional who will make the initial referral to a link worker. This link worker will then be able to provide information on a range of local voluntary, community and social enterprise groups.

For now the project will take part within the Edinburgh University student community, however if successful they would like the model to be expanded in order to become a citywide initiative and help contribute towards the City of Edinburgh’s promise of ‘Delivering a Healthier City for All Ages’.

People and organisations outside Edinburgh University are also encouraged to join the initiative.

For more about recreational activities and mental health, see Maria Gran’s article about the therapeutic effects of knitting.

Student charity Nightline emphasises the importance of World Mental Health Day

The Edinburgh Nightline charity is attempting to tackle the growing problem of mental health issues among university students in the capital.

One in four students in Scotland are currently suffering with a form of psychological illness.

Today, on World Mental Health Day, the Scottish Government have announced that they are increasing the funding for mental health services by £500,000 to help deal with the growing amount of people who have a mental illness.

A student experience survey conducted by the Guardian, showed that 87% of first year students struggle to cope with social or academic aspects of university life. Finances, exams and transitioning to living away from home all pile on the pressure to new and existing scholars.

Nightline is a student service that provides for all of the universities throughout Edinburgh.  It is an anonymous and confidential listening service, which people can call or message online to talk about any of their problems.  

Nightline offers support and information every night of term from 8pm-8am

The charity’s networking coordinator, Sophie Mair, believes that the amount of students experiencing depression, anxiety and stress will only get worse if extra support is not provided.

She said: “Mental health is a big problem in Scotland and it’s only going to get larger if resources aren’t in place to help students.

“Nightline is an imperative student service, it is a confidential, non-judgemental listening service that is open during the night when a lot of other services are closed and people feel more vulnerable.

“The idea of the service isn’t to offer advice, but rather to just listen and support as much as possible.”

Students can get involved with the charity to provide support by volunteering for the group.

The volunteer stated: “Applications for volunteering happen around September, October and February of each year.

“We have just closed applications for this semester, however, they will open again next February.

“Sessions are run before the application deadline to give people an idea of what the service is about and if it’s something they would be interested in joining.”If you have any problems that you would like to talk to someone about in confidence you can call Nightline on: 0131 557 4444

Or you can chat with a volunteer online at: http://ednightline.com/instant-messenger/

Written by Kirsty-Ann Wilson

Why we should not ignore Kanye’s breakdown

US rapper Kanye West was hospitalised yesterday following a “medical aid request” to the Los Angeles Fire Department.

News reports have stated that the ‘Fade’ songwriter was escorted to the UCLA Medical Center for psychiatric evaluation after a speculated altercation with a staff member at the gym.

Earlier this week West was heavily criticised as he drew his Saint Pablo Tour to an abrupt close succeeding an on-stage outburst at his Sacramento show.

Once he had performed three tracks, the artist began a lengthy rant, discussing his annoyance over radio, Facebook and fellow rapper Jay-Z.


The reception of West’s recent outburst has been unsettling, similar to that of this year’s International Men’s Day.

Taking place on 19th November, the event’s theme for 2016 was ‘Stop Male Suicide’ and is now to be discussed in the House of Commons alongside educational under-achievement.

Suicide is the leading cause of death for men under 50 in the UK. Research by the Samaritans shows that men between ages 45 to 59 are more likely to end their own lives than any other group.

Screen Shot 2016-11-23 at 11.34.40.png

Source: The Telegraph


Despite this, International Men’s Day was met with an influx of disagreement towards the men-as-victims narrative. Twitter users teased about Kanye’s mental health issues as being due to the ‘Kardashian man curse.’

As a twenty-something-year-old female, discussions surrounding feminism are prevalent, but are the voices as loud when addressing male-orientated issues?

BBC Radio 1 presenter Pete Dalton, known professionally as MistaJam, took to social media to share his thoughts on the public’s response to men’s mental health.


West’s breakdown could be recognised as an obvious cry for help and fuel a larger conversation encompassing improving gender relations.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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