Welcome to the February issue of the Voice for Arran and we hope you are keeping well – either well occupied or finding time for a break in hectic times, but hopefully safe and happy! If in this continuing lockdown things are a struggle, we have some articles and resources for you in the following pages… For me, these latest restrictions came as something of a surprise. I had been paying some attention to the news but I had been trying quietly to convince myself that there surely wouldn’t be a return to home-schooling. But return it has and the last month for us has been quite an array of ups and downs, joy as well as pain. So I was interested to receive Kenneth Gibson’s article on mental health and support, an issue that has a magnified relevance during the current Covid times. As has been reported in the national news, he writes that mental health support groups and organisations have seen a huge rise in demand for their services.

In Arran we have been lucky to have only a small number of cases of the virus. But the recent Arran Recovery Group surveys in June and October 2020 found issues of mental health to be one of the highest concerns for people in Arran. Social isolation, fear of the unknown and financial concerns were a few of the challenges people stated to be experiencing. Of course here in Arran we are vulnerable to the same human experience as people everywhere, and I have found over the last few weeks the following words of Kenneth Gibson have returned to me: “So often when times are hard, life becomes about survival. We take things day by day, hour by hour, or even minute by minute when we have to”.

So in this issue we have a piece from therapists on the island which provides information about the help that is available on Arran. Connecting to others and support groups can be one important way to improve our sense of wellbeing. Turning towards ourselves and strengthening our inner resources is another way and we have some great practical advice from Heather Regan-Addis of the Mindfulness Association on how “we can build up our resources…and cultivate a habit of remaining cheerful.” Spending time in nature is another activity that provides so much benefit. In her article Nature Prescriptions, Kirsty Nutt reports on a recent project where GPs are partnering with the RSPB Scotland to literally prescribe time in the outdoors for people as a way to look after their mental health. After the success of the project in Shetland over the last couple of years, the initiative has now launched in Edinburgh. They are hoping to extend the project across the country; I am keeping my fingers crossed it will come to Arran!

Apart from our focus on mental health we have a range of pieces and poems which have been sent in. There is news from Corrie’s Art Competition, a Wildlife Spotter’s guide to Goatfell, and details of the screening of the film ‘The Limit’ coming up in February. Sally Campbell guides us through the nuances of carbon capture as opposed to direct emissions reduction, and there is a very uplifting story of the meeting between Greta Thunberg and the Dalai Lama last month to start us off. While we wait for the world to open up again, keeping well in body and mind can be more challenging than usual and if you are facing difficulties for whatever reason we hope there is something here that can be of help. I am certainly trying to follow another of Heather’s tips – Make challenges the path. She writes, “When something challenging emerges in your life, think of it as part of your curriculum for the day”, which is absolutely perfect as a piece of advice to follow in our home-school situation! And if all else fails, see here for some ShantyTok which can go far to lift the spirits! Elsa