Linda Fisken from Perth is a suicide survivor. She attempted to take her own life in 2017.
To mark World Suicide Prevention Day, she’s highlighting how helping local women with their mental health has helped transform her own.
Linda, 55, remembers: “My marriage had basically ended, then I lost the job I loved and they cited my mental health issues as part of the reason.
“Then I lost my mum in the May. With losing my job, in my head I just gave up. I really stopped communicating.
“I remember being in psychiatric hospital. When you’re more scared in hospital than you are out of it, that’s when it really hits. I wouldn’t wish it on anybody.”
After leaving hospital, Linda found community mental health services to be lacking the support she needed.
She explains: “When I came out of hospital, I moved back in with my dad in Perth.
“I had a meeting with my psychiatrist in Fife and I could just see it was a tick-box exercise.
“It felt like a case of ‘oh well, that’s you moved to Perth so I’ll be handing over your file to them’ and that was it. It felt as if I was one less person for them to worry about.”
‘I didn’t want anyone to go through what I did’
Linda’s own experience with mental illness led her to launch Linda’s Ladies in 2019 – a Perth charity supporting local women struggling with their mental health.
Through her own experience of the mental health support available, she knew she wanted others to be able to access help as soon as they needed it.
The mum-of-two explains: “Mental health services are so stretched. I just didn’t want anyone to go through what I’d gone through.
“Being in hospital was a really scary experience. Then, when I came home, it was like I wasn’t ill enough to be seen – I just thought ‘what now?’
“It was almost as if I felt I had nobody to talk to if I needed to.”
What began as a Facebook post putting out feelers for somewhere to host a potential group session, led to the realisation that there was demand for a women’s support group in Perth.
A place of understanding
Linda’s Ladies runs meetings for women to come together and share how they’re feeling – and face-to-face meetings have recently restarted after Covid.
Linda says: “I go outside five minutes before the meetings start, to see if any new ladies want to come along, so they don’t have to come in by themselves.
“They can share as much or as little as they want to and obviously what goes on in the room stays in the room.
“We talk about how our weeks were on a scale from one to 10. Then we discuss what made it that particular number, and what they think could have changed that.
“I base it around a serenity prayer: You can’t change other people, but you can change the way you deal with other people.
“I also have a WhatsApp group that really has been fantastic through lockdown.
“Ladies have posted if they’re struggling. They know the others have gone through the same or know how they’re feeling.
“I’ve always told people ‘I can’t fix you, but I’ll be here to try and support you’.”
‘No conversation is off limits’
Linda’s Ladies offers a safe, welcoming and confidential space for women to share their feelings and get their worries out in the open.
Linda herself has found positives in organising the group.
She says: “Running the group has helped me because I like to help people. I don’t like to know people are struggling.
“I’m trying to make something good out of the bad that happened.”
And it’s clear the group has a positive impact on the Ladies it has supported.
One woman who attends the group said: “For me, mental health has always been a ‘don’t talk about it in public’ conversation.
“But with Linda’s Ladies, no conversation is off limits. I finally felt like I had somewhere to go, where I could talk about my grief, anger and crippling depression.
“I felt like I wasn’t alone anymore.”
Meetings take place Thurdays 7pm-9pm at The Creative Exchange in Perth.