Letters to the editor – May 22, 2020

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Be kind to one another


Mental Health Awareness Week, now in its 20th year, runs from May 18 to May 24.

This year, the theme for the week is kindness and across the country, people will be celebrating kindness in digital and creative ways within social distancing restrictions.

The last couple of months, with all the uncertainty of the virus and the impact of lockdown, have been an extremely stressful and worrying time for many people across the Highlands and Islands. People who may have previously felt isolated in remote and rural communities may be feeling this even more acutely at this time, so it’s important they know support is available.

Across the region, many people have also sadly faced the pain of losing loved ones to the virus or have fallen ill themselves, while others have seen their livelihoods put at risk or incomes reduced. All of this has put additional strain on people’s mental well-being.

This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is putting the focus on kindness as a means of helping people through the pandemic and building a better society as we emerge from it. We see many acts of kindness in the Highlands and Islands all the time, but this week is an opportunity for people to reflect on their interactions with others and how they can try and be a little kinder during this unprecedented time.

David Stewart, MSP for Highlands and Islands region.

Sight loss support


During Mental Health Awareness Week, sight loss charity RNIB Scotland is highlighting the emotional reassurance and practical help it is offering during the coronavirus lockdown.

Our Need to Talk telephone counselling service remains available in Argyll and Bute for anyone diagnosed with sight loss, as well as their families, friends and carers.

Losing some or even all your sight can be devastating news to take in, but our trained helpers can support you in coming to terms with your condition and finding the way forward.

RNIB is concerned the lockdown might be affecting people who are blind and partially sighted, many of whom are older, particularly hard. The uncertainty over access to basic shopping and medication, to information in accessible formats, the social isolation and barriers to being guided because of social distancing can all add and compound to the mental and emotional stress people are experiencing.

As well as our Need to Talk service, the RNIB helpline on 0303 1 239999 is available for anyone with sight loss and we continue to organise social activities over the phone and social media.

We want people with sight loss to know they are not alone and that help is available.

James Adams, RNIB Scotland director, Edinburgh.

Aliens are among us

The Scottish Invasive Species Initiative (SISI) has launched Alien Detectives – a fun and educational online resource to help the young and not so young  learn more about alien – or non-native – invasive species.

Originally designed as a school education pack, the huge array of activities now includes a wide range of fun games and activities that anyone can enjoy at home, in the garden or on local walks during lockdown.

Alien Detectives includes crafts, quizzes, worksheets, presentations and puzzles all themed around invasive species and the river environment. Although primarily aimed at young people, anyone with an interest in the environment or invasive species can enjoy them too.

Our project team has been busy while homeworking during lockdown to produce these fantastic resources. We hope becoming Alien Detectives will bring many hours of enjoyment to individuals and families during lockdown, especially at a time when most young people are not in a regular school environment and might be looking for a new challenge or activities to continue their learning.

Invasive non-native species might be a new topic to many but it is a really important one. Invasive species can have a major impact on our environment and native wildlife and are responsible for significant biodiversity loss in Scotland and across the world. We hope these resources will help raise awareness of the impacts of invasive species and inspire more young people to learn something about them.

No prior knowledge is needed and there’s lots to learn and have fun with so become an Alien Detective and help us tackle invasive species today.

All of the ‘Alien Detectives’ resources can be found at www.invasivespecies.scot/alien-detectives.

Callum Sinclair, SISI Project Manager, Newton Stewart.

Let’s hold a virtual picnic


We may not be able to hold picnics in the usual way just yet, but why not hold the next best thing – a virtual picnic? That way you can invite as many people as you want.

National charity Family Action is running its Virtual Family Picnic from May 23 to May 26 and everyone is invited. The charity has created a free pack full of tips, ideas and videos to help people host their own virtual picnic.

You can hold your picnic in your garden, on your balcony or on the living room floor. Just find some space, make some tasty treats and connect with friends and family online.

Although we are all still respecting social distancing and cannot meet in groups, we can still share experiences together and create happy memories.  And when lockdown finally ends we can do it all again, but this time in person.

To find out more and to get your free pack, visit the Family Action website.

David Holmes CBE, Family Action Chief Executive Officer, London