FOR many people, mental health remains something of a issue to be swept under the carpet or kept hidden in the dark.

Now, however, a Barrhead-based support group is shedding light on the topic – and offering a lifeline to those who feel like they have no-one to turn to.

Volunteers at Lean On Me provide accessible help for free.

What’s more, they are consciously raising a generation that is bred to talk about their feelings and mental hardships.

Last year, deaths by suicide increased by 14 per cent across Scotland and the rate among people under the age of 25 is the highest it has been in more than a decade.

Frances Quinn and her sister Jennifer Capaldi started Lean On Me in memory of their late brother Anthony Quinn, who suffered from mental health issues.

Drop-in sessions take place at the Catherine Rose café, in Cross Arthurlie Street, each month and are already producing positive results.

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Frances told the Barrhead News: “Because the meetings take place in a café, there’s a relaxed environment.

“You don’t need to share your story but, when the time’s right, you will because you realise you’re in the company of people who are going through the same stuff.”

One of the challenges facing Frances and Jennifer is convincing more men to come along to the sessions.

“It can be hard for anyone to talk about mental health but we have realised it is worse for men,” said Frances.

“As young men grow up, they’re told to ‘man up’ and not talk about their feelings.”

Jennifer added: “When teenagers have struggles and pressures, they don’t know how to cope because they’ve never been encouraged to talk about their feelings and look after their mental health.”

Thankfully, it would appear that attitudes towards mental health issues are finally changing for the better.

Jennifer said: “People are quick to say ‘let’s talk’ or ‘it’s okay to talk’ but, really, what they need to do is learn to listen.

“That’s where things need to change and that’s what we try to do here.”

Mental health problems can affect people of all ages and backgrounds and can strike at any time.

For some, the problems are linked to their childhood, while others find themselves increasingly struggling to cope as the stresses and strains of everyday life take their toll.

Among those who have benefited from the support offered by Lean On Me since the drop-in sessions were launched a year ago is Barrhead man Nikki McGowan.

He told how his childhood was “taken away” from him as a tragic incident led to him developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Nikki was just 14 when a young girl died in his arms following a road accident.

As he struggled to cope with the trauma, no support was forthcoming – and he was too young to seek it himself.

“I’ve suffered from PTSD and anxiety from a very young age,” said Nikki, who is now 31.

“When I was 14, a girl died in my arms. Her blood was spraying in my face and I tried to save her.

“I guess what happens is that my mind is stuck in that timeframe.

“I’ve never taken a tablet or had anything for my PTSD, I’ve kind of fixed myself, with the help of the group.”

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Another member of the group, who asked to be named only as Angela, suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and has found the search for effective treatment difficult.

She told the Barrhead News: “I did Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) a few years ago but the interviews to get on to it were enough to put you off for life.

“When I got the letter to say I’d been accepted, I was devastated because that just meant I’d been labelled.

“I felt like I’d been treated as a label and I couldn’t handle it. Coming here and dealing with it this way is better for me.”

Another local woman, who asked to be known as Patricia, told how going along to the sessions has helped her cope with “terrible” anxiety.

“I had not long had a baby and was struggling, in a very bad place,” she said.

“I had isolated myself but coming here and just talking has helped me.

“A lot of the time, I’m a nervous wreck inside but I don’t show it. It has helped me to be able to get out and I don’t feel trapped in the house any more.”