Blog | SAMH: support and trust

19th October 2020

In our latest SAMH Trustee blog hear from, Stuart MacQuarrie, on his own personal journey to SAMH and what being a Trustee means to him.

Being a trustee is holding trust on behalf of an organisation and in the case of SAMH that includes those who look to us for support. From the moment people pick up the phone or walk through the door of any of our services they are trusting us - all of us at SAMH - sometimes quite literally with their lives. What SAMH does so well is to see and support people as human beings and so individual people, respond to us by trusting us.

My elder sister was disabled, so I grew up with parents and carers around me who put their trust in local authorities and statutory services. Thus, early on in working life I realised the importance of being considered trustworthy and that if we are, people will go to great lengths to help and support us. My early career followed a route of clerical jobs, the retail industry and then being a sales rep and company buyer. Within that there was also another side running parallel to working life, and this was about searching for meaning and purpose. I applied to become a candidate and train to be a Minister of the Church of Scotland.

To my utter astonishment after going through a rigorous process I was accepted. Another lesson learned, and a new journey begun. In the 1980s and 90s I held roles in two churches, and then moved into voluntary sector management, followed by local politics. At the turn of the millennium, not wanting to spend my life in politics, I returned to voluntary sector management and part-time study for an MBA at the University of Glasgow. Approaching the completion of the MBA, I was appointed Chaplain to the University of Glasgow. Some 19 years later I have just retired.

Through the Chaplaincy I renewed my relationship with SAMH. By 2003 there was a growing recognition that suicide, especially amongst young men, was a significant issue in Scotland. Having conducted a growing number of funerals of people who had ended their lives, the realisation dawned on me I had to do more than conduct funerals and be with the family and friends who were left asking, ‘Why?’ Comforting people was not enough, nor was it enough to conduct a ‘nice service’ to mark someone’s life. I took part in Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) and I found the programme very helpful, but after advancing and jointly leading ASIST Workshops I realised my skills did not extend to being a trainer and my contribution lay in other directions. SAMH and its staff team played a big part in this journey. ASIST did offer insights into how we as a community might respond when supporting parents, families, friends of people bereaved by suicide. However, SAMH’s materials and openness in being willing to discuss suicide challenged my thinking. This in turn led to changing my approach from that of being a Chaplain leading a Service, to one of being a human being accompanying people through that journey. It was about a community of all sorts of different people coming together to honour one of their own, with the focus not being on the death of someone, but on their life. This could only be done if people trusted each other in the midst of their grief, sadness, pain and hurt. And the joy that someone brought into our lives. As Robert Burns wrote:

Had we never lov'd sae kindly, 
Had we never lov'd sae blindly, 
Never met—or never parted— 
We had ne'er been broken-hearted. 

At SAMH it is important for us all to keep to the vision and values of what took all of us into the type of work we do in supporting people who are vulnerable or who just need a bit of help to see that their life is valued. That is what we are good at, and why people trust SAMH.

You might be feeling lower, more stress or anxious at the moment. Even during these unprecedented times, there are things we can all to do protect our mental health. SAMH has developed a coronavirus mental health information hub where you can find information, tips and resources which you may find useful.