My name is Michael Elliott. I am 24 and I come from a care experienced background. My mental health problems don’t really have anything to do with being in care. They really began when my tendency to overwork myself really took its toll. I thought I could bury my issues with college, university, work: I did not get the help I needed until it got to crisis point. Crisis point was the verge of suicide. The doctor referred me to Carseview and I was put on a lot of medication. And I’ve been on the road to recovery ever since. Recovery is one of these things – it goes up and down.
I had been heavily involved in Dundee’s Champions Board, a platform for care experienced young people to speak out with the express aim of improving the life outcomes of those who are and have been in care. One thing I learned from this experience is that speaking about things in a safe place can really make a difference. So, in late 2017 I asked Front Lounge to make a film about young people and mental health. The goal was to raise awareness of mental health so it wasn’t an awkward talking point. I can remember I had no hopes or expectations. I was very much like, “We will do this and see what happens’.
And what has happened since? Funding, a nationwide tour and conversations with hundreds of people across Scotland. We have had so much support behind us. It is mind blowing. I didn’t expect to do something like this and see it have such a big impact.
Grown Men Don’t Cry
One of my hobbies is airsofting. Me and a group of friends, we would play about with airsoft guns in and wanted to take it to a purpose-built arena and do it more professionally. We searched online for places to go and found Viperstrike Airsoft Dundee was the nearest to my house. So, we went up to Viperstrike and have been doing this for the past six months, going every two weeks. We stumbled into a bigger community. I was having a conversation with David Fletcher, owner of Viperstrike, about the community and he said a lot of people who attended were going through a hard time, and many ex-military personnel suffered with PTSD. As I am part of the Foolish Optimism Working Group, I thought that perhaps a short film about men and mental health could be made.
And so over summer this year we made Daily Battle and the film is very good! It is done very well and conveys the message: if you have an issue as a man you can talk about it; you are not less of a person by having anything mental health related. The guys from Viperstrike got really emotional when they saw the film. They thought it was a sympathetic insight into their world that emphasised the real reason why Viperstrike exists. At Viperstrike you can talk about anything. Despite all the guns and bravado, it is a safe place, a place where men with mental health challenges can come on a regular basis and not be judged. I hope I have given the airsofting community a voice, and I hope it is the start of a fruitful partnership.
From a more personal perspective, airsofting gets me around other people, it’s a good laugh, and it’s a stress-free activity. In that sense, airsofting is a benefit to me. It has introduced me to a bigger community, which means I now have different avenues of support when I need it.
My hope for the future is that mental health stops being a taboo subject, that men get the help and support they need and that those who feel ostracised and or marginalised because of their mental health challenges will not feel that way anymore. And so, I want this Foolish Optimism: Hope In Action campaign to keep pushing the message of hope to help improve things.