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All the latest news as well as posts from guest authors

A young person’s top tips for how parents can support their children’s mental health

By Aidan

An illustration of two people dealing with conflict.

Before I start with my tips, I will share with you how I am getting on with Covid and lockdown. I miss school, as I haven’t seen my friends over the Christmas holidays or in the entire home-schooling period. I feel that what kept me going during this period is exercise and developing my interests. I do quite a bit physical exercise everyday (at least an hour) and play the piano. This really helps me stay relaxed and occupied.

Here are my 4 top tips for parents to help your kids’ mental health

Top tip 1: Guide your kids through your own actions. They look up to you and they see how you act, whether it is with a colleague, or an ex-partner. If you are aggressive to them then your kids will see that and think it is acceptable to hurt others, especially if you are physically violent. This could lead to them becoming bullies in school. If you act kindly towards others when your kids are there then they will pick that up and have happier lives.

Top tip 2: Understand their feelings. If they are feeling down, angry or anything like that, don’t dismiss their feelings as this could aggravate them further, and they might release them at someone else in a negative way, for example at their teacher. Try to understand them and don’t tell them what they are feeling is incorrect or that they should be feeling something different, for example be happy. If your kid is struggling with their mental health, dismissing them will make them feel worse.

Top tip 3: Keep a close bond. Try to spend time with your child, but your child also needs space to be by themselves, and to have their own friends.

Top tip 4: Keep communication. If you don’t talk much to your child it might make them less confident talking to others and/or feel unloved.

Finally, having the trust between you and your kid is very important as they can come to you with their problems.

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Are we doing okay?

By Andrew Boyd, Mediator

Today is the start of Family Mediation Week, which ‘aims to raise awareness of mediation and how it can help separating families manage their issues collaboratively and productively.’ Family Mediation is just one of the situations in which mediation can help people to talk through the conflict they are experiencing and create a way forward.

In these challenging times when families don’t have the ‘space’ that they normally enjoy, emotions can be heightened and this can impact how families interact with each other and those around them. Also, our relationships with friends and colleagues are at times under strain and the need to talk things though is even more important than ever. Mediation can help with all of this.

So how are we doing? Are we doing okay?

Working as a mediator in a wide range of situations, it can sometimes seem to me that there is a great deal of conflict around! As our interactions with people are limited just now, we can become overly focused on what we spend most of our time doing, in my case, working with people in conflict. I have a friend who just now is working frontline in hospital with patients with COVID. With long shifts, limited time off and the huge stresses of work, my friend recently commented that it sometimes feels that everyone in the world is extremely ill! Clearly everyone in the world is not extremely ill and neither is the whole world in conflict. While I’m not trying to compare the huge stresses of working with COVID patients with working as a mediator, the same approach of allowing ourselves to become overly focused on the negative things that are happening in our lives just now, isn’t helpful. When our glass is half empty, rather than half full, it is more difficult find the energy to power forwards and deal with the challenges that the day brings. This is easy to say but can sometimes be not so easy to do!

So back to the title of this blog. Are we doing okay? Yes, we are!! By focusing on the positive things that are happening just now, it’s a little easier to deal with the negative things. I would encourage you to grab the good stuff, give yourself a pat on the back and to tell yourself…‘I’m doing okay!’.

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Everyday gifts of kindness

By Karen Holford, Family Ministries Director for the Trans-European Division

Kindness is one of the very best gifts you can give to another human being. It’s also one of the best gifts you can give yourself. Every time we’re kind, or even just think about being kind, it makes us feel good too. We can do lots of quick, simple and meaningful things that are powerfully kind for those around us. Here are 10 ready to give gifts of kindness:

The first thing is to welcome others, especially when they have completely messed up. When I dented my partner’s car, he gave me a big hug and checked out that I was OK and let me know that I was much more important to him than having a perfect bumper! That was super special! When we’ve made a mistake, and someone stays calm and accepts us anyway, that’s an incredible gift!

Stopping what we’re doing, putting away our phone, and giving people our full attention, is another special gift when everyone seems so busy and pre-occupied. Let them see that for a few moments they are the most important person in your world.

We all want respect. When people ask for our opinions, involve us in decisions, treat us as if we’re a little better than them, and speak in kind and respectful ways, it feels good. We can do that for others, too.

Affection is much harder now that we can’t hug each other as freely as we’d like! But we can still give pretend hugs, send warm and caring messages, or cut a life-sized pair of paper arms and post a hug in an envelope!

Just saying “thank you” is a gift too. The more you show appreciation to other people, the less likely they are to argue with you! It’s free and easy to do, so it’s worth a try!

The word “encouragement” means “giving heart to” someone else. Find out what their goals are, encourage their efforts, and give them the heart and strength to keep going.

Every day has its challenges and sore spots. We all need some TLC to help us make it through the day. When someone shares a sad story, or looks as if they’ve had a tough time, practice empathy and do something comforting to help them feel better. Cups of tea, listening, going for a walk, or doing something fun together, can all help.

There are all kinds of things to worry about and be afraid of…So don’t add to people’s fears. Treat them gently, find out what they don’t like, and help them to feel safe. Take your foot of the accelerator, lock the doors, keep your promises and protect them from harm.

Give a helping hand. The more things you do to help others, the better, especially without being asked. Doing the jobs other people hate will give you extra brownie points. And the more helpful you are, the less resentful they will feel, and the less arguments you will have, too!

Finally, let your loved ones know how special they are to you! “It’s great being your mum!” “I’m so glad you’re my wife!” “You make my heart smile!”

So, there you are! Ten free kindness gifts, all ready to share! They don’t even need wrapping! Try giving them away as often as you can and see the difference these “little” gifts can make.

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This is your permission to feel

By Sarah Philp, Psychologist, Coach and Educator

How are you?

A question we hear often, a question we ask often.

However, we rarely seek, expect or offer an honest answer.  The common responses are ‘fine’, ‘OK’ or ‘busy’. These are our stock responses. 

Pause for a moment and ask yourself ‘how am I feeling right now, in this moment?’  Be curious…

We all have emotions all of the time, they are in fact what make us human. Our emotions can be messy, confusing and let’s face it, just plain inconvenient. They can feel overwhelming and beyond our control.  We tend to think of our emotions as either positive or negative. In reality they are neither, they are information.

All emotions are information. With that in mind, what are your emotions telling you at the moment?

Try to approach your emotions with curiosity rather than judgement.  Do you ever tell yourself things like ’I shouldn’t feel this way’ or ‘others have it worse than me’ I know I do this, I’m aware of doing it and I try to let it go.  Judgements lead us to try and push away or bury how we feel and the trouble with this is that it means we don’t deal with them and they come back bigger, louder and messier. Adopting a curious approach enables us to better understand our emotions, where they come from and how we can move through them. 

What might be contributing to whatever it is you are feeling at the moment?

Understanding and insight into our emotions puts us in the driving seat.  When we can talk about our emotions it reduces the emotional charge they have.  This nurtures our sense of wholeness.  It also increases our capacity for thinking, decision making and creativity. 

Sometimes these questions might be hard to answer, messy and uncomfortable.  As I said before, try not to judge yourself but lean in with curiosity and give yourself or others time to unpick and explore. 

Key to our ability to master our emotions is our capacity for self – care.  Self – care is one of those things that can be easily misunderstood and even superficial. Personally, I’ve struggled with the concept and indeed the practice over the years. I came across a definition of self – care that really helped me and I offer it to you now too, perhaps it will resonate:

“Learning self-care is like building your own lifeboat, plank by plank. Once you’ve got your boat, you’ll still be rocked by the waves of life, but you’ll have a feeling of safety, and a stability that means you can pick other people up on your way”


Nadia Narain and Katia Narain Phillip

What I love about this is the idea that step by step (or plank by plank) we can rebuild and maintain our own resourcefulness and resilience.  This isn’t a ‘one and done’ event, it’s a process.  It’s important to remember that self – care can also mean doing the hard stuff, it’s not all bubble baths and candles (although I do enjoy both of those).  I love that this definition also acknowledges that we are still going to be ‘rocked by the waves of life’ but practicing self – care gives us the capacity to handle it and to move through it.  Lastly, it connects our capacity for self – care to our relationships with others, when we are fully resourced we are better able to support others. 

Kindness and compassion towards others are fuelled and sustained by kindness and compassion towards ourselves.

I invite you to take some time to reflect on what energises and nourishes you.  With this awareness how might you bring more of that into your life, your work and your relationships?

This is your permission to feel.  This is a process, this is a way of life. 

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My experience of SCCR’s International Conference: A blog by Drew Drummond

By Drew Drummond, Mediator and SCCR Patron

The following blog is by Drew Drummond, who hosted the ‘Permission to feel’ webinar alongside Sarah Philp, as part of SCCR’s International Conference: ‘Connections & bridging the divide’ which took place throughout October 2020.

When I think back to the beginning of April 2020, my memories are working out what lockdown might look like for my family, how to run my work digitally and from speaking with the impressive SCCR Team, asking ourselves the question – do you think we could run an International Conference in 2020 as opposed to our usual in-person Annual Conference?

I felt vulnerable over the above questions but that feeling of wonder and excitement – that in spite of all that we are dealing with, could we make the most of this challenge or opportunity, depending on how you looked at it.

I have always believed passionately in the great work of the SCCR. A team who are small in number but magnificent in reach and impact.

This International Conference was our time. Our opportunity to step up, go big, be bold and proud of our shared work with our impressive network of courageous and kind contributors.

…I don’t want to ruin the ending but we did it! It wasn’t in straight lines but for the month of October we delivered 11 events online and connected with 12 international countries. Incredibly, we reached far more people than we ever could have physically in our standard conference format.

I have the privilege to be a Cyrenians Ambassador with a particular focus on supporting the work of the SCCR. From standing in Scottish Parliament in 2014, asking for help to make sure Young People, Parents and Professionals’ could choose how they navigate and deal with conflict in a positive way to 2020 to writing this blog to recognise and celebrate giving other people in other countries help, support and the offer of hope in many different ways to model approaches in how to deal with conflict, whoever and wherever you are, right here, right now. By way of a story through the impact of Covid-19 – this one is significant.

So, what did we learn from this, our first, International Conference?

  • When you move from a position of ‘I’ to ‘We’ – good things can and do happen.

It would have been easier to stand down and not deliver blaming the impact of Covid-19.  The trust of the team to back themselves, reach out to our network individually and to pull together a series of workshops and panels which could nurture, signpost and offer support to our community and internationally, when they needed it the most. I will follow the example of the SCCR going forward, this has helped myself and my own mindset in breaking the cycle of trying to control that of which I have no control.

  • Feel the Fear and do it anyway.

In times of uncertainty it is easier to go in on yourself, I share this from first hand feeling and experience through lockdown. It helped my own health and well-being that as a collective, we pulled together, learned new things and ultimately played to our strengths as opposed to closing down. Personally, I will always be grateful for this gift during lockdown.

  • It is a connection, it is not a connection as we know it but it is a connection nonetheless.

We all miss the social connection of interdependency and finding ways forward, together. The International Conference experience has taken this to a whole new level, yes, the connection is different but still a connection. Through this connection we found great hope, not just for ourselves but the hundreds of people around the world with whom we, the SCCR got to reach-out, say hello and connect to deal with conflict.

In the words of Vaclav Havel; “It is hope above all which gives us the strength to continually try new things.”

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Top tips for 12 Days of Christmas Kindness

By Rachel Lee, SCCR Digital Media and Communications Officer

As we come to the end of what has been a challenging year for many families across Scotland and around the world, showing compassion and kindness is needed now, more than ever before.

Here at Cyrenians’ Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution (SCCR) we are pledging 12 Days of Christmas Kindness by offering a dozen tips on how to be kind this festive season and beyond. 

1: Be kind to yourself.

For you to be kind and able to bestow compassion onto others, it’s important that you feel positive and are looking after your own wellbeing. Take a slow deep breath, connect with your emotions and listen to your feelings.

2: Spread festive cheer with a compliment.

A few kind words can really make someone’s day a whole lot better. By giving someone a thoughtful compliment, you can make them feel special. You never know what someone is going through and that compliment could be the only kindness they are shown that day. 

3: Collaborate for a happy Christmas.

As fun as the festive season may be, it can also be a stressful time for families and fraught with little squabbles. Arguments can often arise over what to do and when so try planning in advance so everyone feels included.

Collaboration is key to a peaceful, conflict-free Christmas! 

4: Offer a helping hand.

How can you help out this Christmas? Perhaps you could set the table, chop some vegetables or nominate yourself for washing up duty!

By offering to help and sharing the tasks, everyone will get a chance to enjoy Christmas. 

5: Support a charity or your local community.

If you can, show kindness this Christmas by giving to charity or supporting your local community. Giving really is the true meaning of Christmas.

Find out more about Cyrenian’s winter appeal here: https://cyrenians.scot/donate. With the gift of a donation, you’re helping Cyrenians tackle the causes and consequences of homelessness and helping people in need of support to feel valued.

6: Always show gratitude.

Be grateful of any gifts you receive – even if it’s the umpteenth pair of socks! Ok, maybe they’re not what you wanted but see it as a token of kindness and remember it really is the thought that counts, that’s the true meaning of Christmas.

7: Stay safe and connected.

For many families, Christmas this year may be a little different. However, we can still be emotionally connected by reaching out digitally with messages or calls to let them know you are thinking of them.

8: Choose your words wisely.

By pausing to think before you speak, you be able to choose words with a positive intention and show kindness with what you say. Being wise with your words brings people closer.

9: Take a genuine interest in others.

An act of kindness is asking someone how they are doing and really listening. When people feel like they are being listened to, they feel valued and cared about.

10: Give a meaningful gift.

Show kindness with a heartfelt gift, such as a note of all the things that make them special. It’s not about what you spend, it’s the thought. The other person will truly appreciate that you are thinking of them if you make it personal. Remember, a memory can last a lifetime.

11: Be present in the moment.

The greatest gift of kindness you can give another person is to be in the moment in their presence, listening with care, sharing laughs and making memories together.

12: Smile! Say “cheese” it’s Christmas.

Christmas is a time to be jolly so why not spread festive joy with a smile! A simple smile can be really powerful, it can improve both your own and others wellbeing.

And finally, the SCCR team would like to wish you and your family a very happy and safe Christmas.

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Keep the Heid: A young person’s reflection on taming the beast of anger

By Aidan

I am a Lion Tamer!

I took the ‘Keep the Heid’ Quiz this morning and found out some useful facts about how I deal with conflicts. A Lion Tamer is described as someone who feels their emotions building up but their thinking brain stays in control. Most of the time I can see another side to things. My technique of taming the beast and keeping the heid is taking a moment to give the other person the benefit of the doubt and that they might not intend to annoy me.

I am 12 years old. I remember as a younger child around the age of 4 I used to get frustrated and angry quite a bit. I didn’t know at that time how to express myself. It would seem as if by magic my mum could read my mind because she would describe how I felt inside. When hearing your own feelings being accurately described I felt understood. This is called empathy and it is one way to tame the beast.

The SCCR website is interactive and easy to understand. The ‘Keep the Heid’ Quiz takes real life examples and connects that to how our brain works.

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My experience of SCCR’s International Conference: A blog by Gordon McKinlay

By Gordon McKinlay, Head of Schools for Renfrewshire Council

The following blog is by Gordon McKinlay, who hosted the ‘Nurturing Wellbeing’ webinar alongside his colleagues Michael Harker, Ciara Briggs, Ruth Carleton, Amy Nolan and Charlotte Murray, as part of SCCR’s International Conference: ‘Connections & bridging the divide’ which took place throughout October 2020.

It’s easy to focus on what we can’t do at the moment.

With the days getting shorter and many of us feeling the pressure of either working on the front line or being stuck at home it is easy to agree with Gavroche from ‘Les Miserables’ and “look down”. It’s not hard to see how relationships can become strained, the ways in which we can feel lonely and how easily conflict can erupt.  We can easily feel that the restrictions we are facing will never end. Whatever the days and weeks ahead may bring, I am reminded of the importance of human connection. We are social beings and need to connect with each other in order to flourish and support our mental wellbeing.

Over a number of years SCCR conferences have provided a great opportunity for professionals, parents and young people to meet and connect with one another, listen to one and another and take notice. When our circumstances make it difficult for us to be in the same physical space it is easy to lose that sense of connectedness.

The writer Meg Wheatley reminds me very powerfully that none of us exists in isolation. Everything in the universe is about relationships.   It has, therefore, been a breath of fresh air to be part of the recent SCCR international conference. How truly inspirational to listen to contributions from so many individuals and organisations who are connecting with one another and building bridges to make lives better for others. To reflect on so many different facets of engaging positively with conflict, building peace and strengthening relationships has been very powerful. My eyes have been opened by so many different facets of the theme of the event. It has been good to be reminded to look up.

I often return to the words of an ancient proverb which encourages the wise to listen to others, even if fools think they need no advice. Building positive relationships where we listen to one another, take notice and build bridges is certainly a wise thing to do and has been the key hallmark of the huge range of workshops and seminars throughout October.  I have loved being able to hear from others and, in particular to listen to voices from across the world on an equal footing.  I can’t imagine any circumstances when we could have brought together contributions from Gaza, Zimbabwe and Scotland if we had not been forced to take our engagement online.

None of this would have been possible without the contribution of a huge number of people. I want to add my thanks to the team for all their efforts in bringing together such an innovative and creative programme of events.  It may not have been possible to be in the same room together but we really have taken the opportunity afforded us to look up, make connections and bridge the divide.

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Managing Conflict and Arguments at Home during Covid 19 Lockdown measures

By Rosanne Cubitt, Relationships Scotland, Head of Practice for Mediation

This blog by Rosanne Cubitt was originally published on Relationships Scotland’s website on 16th April and all credit goes to the source.
Rosanne Cubitt of Relationships Scotland has kindly allowed the Cyrenians Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution to share this blog with our audience.

Spending time with others under the current circumstances is likely to result in disputes and arguments at some point. Everyone is experiencing some loss and change to their normal way of life, and may be feeling anxious and stressed. The conflict in your household may be something that was there in your family or partner relationship before and it has got worse, or it may be caused by the current situation.

The lockdown measures are restricting our movements and we are likely to get tetchy, annoyed or just plain angry with others at times. Recognising that this is hard for us all and being able to talk about what is upsetting us or getting us down is important. Listening to your partner or friends will help you to find a solution.

Children and young people are also experiencing significant changes and uncertainties, and may be feeling sad, or angry, cross or short tempered. It is important to allow them to express their emotions, and to listen to their concerns.

Common annoyances might be:
· No time to yourself
· Concerns about money
· Noise
· Having to work at home
· Getting under each other’s feet
· Demands of children
· Different routines and expectations
· Not getting out / exercise
· Boredom
· Feeling powerless
· Concerns about health risks

Some of these we might be able to change, like not having any private time or quiet space. Other things might be more challenging. However, what we can do is talk about our anxieties and concerns, and having someone listen to those and trying to hear the others frustration can go a long way to helping to relieve the situation.

Dealing with Arguments
Sometimes our emotions take over and we find ourselves in the middle of an argument that is escalating. We are struggling to express ourselves and have a calm and reasonable converstation. Stress and anxiety stimulate our brains to react and our bodies to produce hormones which can lead to aggressive and unhelpful behaviour. We might be feeling sad but we are coming across as short tempered and angry. We need to re-engage the thinking part of our brain, rather than the reactive part of our brains, and bring ourselves back to a balanced state. This can sometimes take quite a while!

There are steps you can take to de-escalate conflict and calm the situation down. Some ideas that might help are:
· Take a moment – Try not to react immediately to something that has happened or been said. Pause, take a breath   and perhaps suggest that you would like to take some time to think before responding.
· Agree a suitable time to talk about issues when you are more likely to be calm, and have uninterrupted time and space, and you are not tired or hungry!
· Listen with interest – Try to think about how things are from the other person’s perspective and to understand their  viewpoint. Try to give the other person uninterrupted time to speak.
· Tackle one issue at a time – Focus on the most important things and talk about these one at a time. Think about whether you can let some issues go.
· Try to say something positive or refer to something that has gone well or that you agree about.
· Talk about how you feel and what would be helpful for you. Focus more on how you would like things to be than what has been difficult.
· Use ‘I’ statements rather than ‘you’ statements and try to avoid words like ‘always’ and ‘never’. ‘I’ statements reduce blame and criticism, and are less accusatory.
· Remember there may be a number of solutions to the problem you are discussing. Be creative and be prepared to compromise.
· Focus on what you can control, not what you can’t. You are responsible for your own behaviour. Think about what you can do or say to try to have a helpful conversation.

By practising and modelling good communication skills your children and other family members will have an opportunity to learn a useful life skill! Be kind to yourself and generous to others in these difficult circumstances.

Constructive and Destructive Conflict
Some disagreements and differences of opinion are helpful. They encourage us to think differently and bring about positive changes for the better. Constructive conflict is when people have respectful discussions, negotiate and seek comporomise. Those who are arguing are able to apologise and use humour and warmth to resolve differences. Destructive conflict is when arguments are intense and unresolved, and include verbal or physical aggression or violence. Frequent, hostile conflict within families who are living together is particularly difficult.

Help and Support
The current pressures are creating stressful situations for many. Relationships Scotland Member Services offer some online and telephone services, such as counselling or family mediation. Find out more information here: https://www.relationships-scotland.org.uk and contact the Service nearest to where you live here: https://www.relationships-scotland.org.uk/find-a-local-service.

Safety
Living with someone who is abusive, aggressive, controlling or violent is frightening and can be dangerous. Being confined to the house with an abusive partner due to COVID-19 lockdown measures can escalate these issues even further. The additional stresses of the current circumstances are no excuse for abusive behaviour. You might need to think about what you need to do to keep yourself and your children safe.

If you have concerns about your own safety, or the safety of your children, or your own behaviour because of violence or abuse, alcohol or substance misuse, or other issues, professional advice and help is recommended. More information and links to other support agencies are at https://www.relationships-scotland.org.uk/family-support

Original blog can be found here:
https://www.relationships-scotland.org.uk/blog/managing-conflict-arguments-home-covid-19-lockdown-measures-rosanne-cubitt-anne-chilton

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Resilience and Reassurance: A message for young people from Sarah King

By Rachel Lee, SCCR Digital Media and Communications Officer

When the world ground to a halt in March, many people were left in a state of confusion and shock.

This was felt by students across the country, being only a few months before their exams and the end of term, so that the current situation could impact the cultivation of years of hard work and their plans for the next step. Lockdown has forced schools and higher education institutions to cease direct teaching and go digital.

As a lecturer, teaching Law and Mediation at the University of Dundee, Sarah King has witnessed first-hand the sudden upheaval to many students lives and the individual challenges they faced due to the COVID-19 crisis.

“From my perspective as an educator, one of the biggest challenges, especially at the start of lockdown, was trying to work out what support was needed.

“Students were in all sorts of different situations and as we moved teaching online it was important not to make assumptions – this is something learned from mediation that is useful in lots of situations.”

Despite the challenges of students accessing technology, moving out of accommodation early or being unable to fly home, and of course the emotional distress of the period, Sarah has found a positive outcome from this experience – it has brought her and her students closer together.  The pandemic has united the lecturer and her students in a unique bond that is woven with encouragement, support and resilience.

Sarah adds; “One of the benefits of the crisis and lockdown has been getting to know some of the students better. As they were emailing for support, I got to know more of their story and this has made me even more proud of them than normal, when they did well in the exams or got a good mark in a dissertation. They may not have achieved the highest mark in the year, but some of the achievements are remarkable and show true determination when you consider the obstacles that students have overcome.”

“I feel my role is to help them see their achievements in this light and to move forward with more confidence in their abilities because they bring this great attitude.”

Although Sarah and her fellow educators sprang into action to help students with their online learning and progression on their education journey, she also highlights the importance of recognising the emotional impact the crisis has had on young people.

“I think we will all have experienced this crisis in our own way and it will take us all time to process it. Everyone will have had – and be having – different emotional reactions, but everyone’s reaction will be normal for them!”

She adds; “I also think much depends on your own unique personality. I am an introvert so I haven’t found staying at home difficult. I can fully appreciate, however, that others will have felt much more isolated and that the extroverts may be wilting without their usual social engagements.”

And finally, Sarah offers some reassurance and advice to young people feeling lost or uncertain about their future plans;  

“I’m stating the obvious to say that starting a new chapter of your life in the middle of a global pandemic is far from ideal and I guess there may be more apprehension than usual. This is understandable as there is far more than usual to worry about.

“One great piece of advice I was given was not to be too set on what you want to do. Instead have a rough idea of your end goal and say yes to the opportunities that take you closer to it. You might end up somewhere completely unexpected but far better than what you originally had in mind.”

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Worry and stress: A message for young people

By Gordon McKinlay, Head of Schools for Renfrewshire Council

I didn’t do particularly well at school.  Every report card said that I was “easily distracted”. I did enough to get by but never so much that anyone would notice. My exam results weren’t brilliant, just enough not to be noticed by my mum.

It was a bit odd then when I became a teacher and tried to encourage young people that they really needed to work hard so that they could get good qualifications.  I don’t work in schools now, but I still love to see people flourish and my work means I get the chance to encourage lots of different people in lots of schools.

This year has been really difficult for everyone.  When schools closed in March and it was announced that the exams would be cancelled, young people didn’t know what was going to happen.  Uncertainty can be really horrible to deal with and there are lots of emotions that get in the way of thinking clearly.

When I get anxious about something that I think might happen, I find my stomach gets itself tied in knots and it becomes easy to focus on everything that might go wrong.  I am not going to do as well as I thought, I’m not going to get that job or everything is going to end up in a mess.

When I am feeling like this, I find it very easy to get a bit snippy with people or to retreat and hide away so that no one can get anywhere near me. Recently I completed a university course and every time the results were due out everyone knew about it.  I went very quiet and folk wondered what they had done wrong!

Scientists tell us that cortisol helps us deal with stress. It works with parts of our brain to control our mood, motivation and fear. It is best known for our “fight, flight or freeze” reaction when something scary happens.  Normally this is a good thing as it protects us from danger.  However, when it builds up and doesn’t disappear it can have more negative impacts on our wellbeing.

There are lots of things we can do to help.  I have found that going for a walk can clear my head and make me feel as though I am in control again.  I wonder what works for you?

I have been asking myself how I would have reacted if I had been sitting my Highers this year. Nothing could have prepared any of us for what has happened over the past few months.

As we wait for the results to come out, the important thing to remember is that a piece of paper from the SQA does not define us. If you do well, congratulations.  If you don’t do so well, remember that there will be other ways, other opportunities and other chances.  If you are worried or upset then talk to someone or go for a walk like me.  Bottling it all up really won’t help.

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Perspective, mental health and art with Creative Natives’ Jennifer Hunter

By Rachel Lee, SCCR Digital Media and Communications Officer

“Perspective is something you need to be consciously aware of on a daily basis.”

“I’d call it needing to have a default mode of never making assumptions about another person’s reality…the only way to achieve this is to build trusting relationships where you really do get some insight into another person’s life – then you have real ‘perspective’.”

This is Jennifer Hunter’s perspective of, well, perspective. It has been gained from working alongside people experiencing mental health issues for 15 years.

Jennifer is an artist, with a degree from Glasgow School of Art, who has combined her creativity and compassion in her role as a key worker for Creative Natives.

Naturally, she believes there is an undeniable link between art and mental health and it’s something Jennifer sees demonstrated in her work on a daily basis.

Jennifer said; “We find at Creative Natives that when the young people are focussed on their art in the studio, they tell us they feel uplifted, more positive – and any negative feelings they may have been experiencing are momentarily gone.”

“They also find confidence through their practice, literally the act of creating something makes them feel good – having something to hold or look at that came from them makes them feel proud and empowered.”

Creativity has endless benefits. Art can be a vessel for people’s self-expression and a key coping mechanism for dealing with mental health issues or difficult situations.

Jennifer has kindly shared this powerful story of a Creative Natives participant who had struggled at school due to being bullied by their peers and feeling unsupported by their teachers as they identify as transgender. This led them to experience mental health issues and suffer from panic attacks and, as a result, had become socially isolated and withdrawn.

However, after attending Creative Natives for almost a year and a half, they began to see the studio as their safe space.

Jennifer said; “They are a phenomenally talented visual artist so we always gently supported and encouraged them to get their art out into the world but as it’s a very personal expression of their gender identity and their struggle for acceptance this had to be done at their pace.”

“Eventually though they produced a series of works which they felt really expressed their emotions surrounding gender, identity and acceptance in a very beautiful and powerful way so they agreed to have them published on an online gallery and to be entered into a competition,” she continued.

“The day we uploaded them to the online gallery was an absolute celebration and such a turning point for them in terms of their confidence and we were all so incredibly proud of their achievement which was huge.”

“They told me they felt they had used their art to help others experiencing similar issues and that in itself made them feel really good and gave so much of what they had been though a more positive outcome and meaning.”

How do you express your emotions? The SCCR can help you find out.

The SCCR have infused art into our innovative resources to help people gain a better understanding of their brain’s chemistry, emotions and reactions. By using engaging visual animations and expressive illustrations, we convey complex scientific ideas in our psychoeducational digital resources that are free, easily-accessible and suitable for young people, parents/carers and professionals who work with families struggling with conflict.

Improve your self-awareness by exploring our digital resources here: https://scottishconflictresolution.org.uk/brain

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Perspective, mental health and art with SMHAF artist Lauren Stonebanks

By Rachel Lee, SCCR Digital Media and Communications Officer

Perspective. A word that is rooted in the Latin meaning “look through.” A word that evokes many interpretations as it’s how we, as unique and complex individuals, see something. How we perceive our own and other’s emotions, situations, relationships…

The SCCR has explored this word in relation to the arts and wellbeing with Lauren Stonebanks, a talented artist who was part of the Scottish Mental Health Art Festival’s team who decided on 2020’s theme of ‘perspective.’

Like many who experience mental health symptoms since childhood without receiving support, Lauren believed she was weak and simply oversensitive.

Since being diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BDP), Lauren has projected her experiences into various artworks that have helped people to understand BDP, which affects how you think, feel and interact with others.

The Edinburgh-based artist is now an advocate for mental health who challenges stigmas surrounding Borderline Personality Disorder. In 2013, Lauren was one of the founders of the annual Out Of Sight Out Of Mind mental health art exhibition that takes place every year at Summerhall, the art complex located in Edinburgh, and she has “been making mental health based art ever since.”

Her piece for the 2014 Out Of Sight Out Of Mind exhibition was a series of hand bound books. In these books, Lauren reflected upon her mental health experiences and detailed her personal perspective of how BPD had affected her life.

What began with ‘The Little Book Of BPD’, ‘The Little Book Of Drugs’, ‘The Giant Boom Of Side Effects’ soon grew into a 15 piece artwork with many other hand written and bound books due to the visceral response of the exhibition’s visitors.

Shortly after, the series were compiled into one book and self-published. ‘Keep Calm And Take Your Meds: An Omnibus Of Lunacy’ can be found in many libraries and Police Scotland have a copy that officers find helpful when interacting with an ill person.

Lauren says; “Mental health touches every single aspect of your life in my experience. I find art to be an excellent medium for explaining my mental illness to others. It’s been the basis of many of my pieces and people often comment on how it helped them understand something in a way words couldn’t.”

As well as using her art to explain the practical and emotional challenges of living with BPD to others, Lauren also uses art to get something out that she can’t express in any other way.

She says; “A lot of my art is very angry according to some people. I’m not very good at expressing anger outwardly. Maybe that’s why my art is that way.”

“Other art, not so much. It’s not what I imagined it would be but then I’m not what I imagined I would be.”

How do you express anger? The SCCR can help you find out.

The SCCR have infused art into our innovative resources to help people gain a better understanding of their brain’s chemistry, emotions and reactions. By using engaging visual animations and expressive illustrations, we break down complex scientific ideas in our psycho-educational digital resources that are free, readily-accessible and suitable for young people, parents/carers and professionals alike.

Improve your self-awareness by exploring our digital resources here: https://scottishconflictresolution.org.uk/brain

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Exploring the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival Theme of Perspective

By Hannah Foley, Health Care Professional and Illustrator

In the past I have wrestled with the idea that I should have some sort of core, unshakable identity that isn’t shaped by the things I do or by my circumstances. But when everything is stripped away, all I could ever say about myself was that I was a human being, taking twelve breaths a minute on planet Earth. And that’s just the same as everyone else! The fact is our identities are made up of the things we do, our circumstances, and our interactions with others. But what if I can’t do the things I’d like to and the power to control my circumstances has been taken away from me? Or the path to becoming who I’d like to be has now become closed to me? Who am I then?

During these strange times, questions like these have been especially hard to answer for people who were part way in to something. If you’ve lost your job as a trainee hairdresser, are you still a hairdresser? If you were about to do your Highers and are now reliant on some dismal predicted grades for your next step, does this define you? My debut children’s novel was due to come out in June, but publication has been pushed back to next year, and Covid-19 has shot a hole through the publishing industry. What does this mean for me, and for my sense of myself as a writer?

When Covid-19 has caused doors to be slammed in your face it’s hard to stay solution-focused. You’ve turned it round and round, and whichever way you look at, you can’t find a way forward. One of the tactics I use for coming up with solutions is to do something really sensory. Bear with me, it’s not as hippyish as it sounds!

In our society we talk about our minds and bodies as two separate things, often in conflict with each other. But most creative people will tell you this just isn’t true. Our minds and bodies are deeply connected. I don’t know one writer who wouldn’t advocate going for a walk when you get stuck. The novelist Stephen King prioritises going for a walk every day. Other artists and writers I know swim in the sea, take a bath, knit, sketch or go for a run. For me, I love to go out on my bike, or do some digging on my allotment. It needs to be an activity that takes over all your senses, leaving no room for angst or ruminating on the “what-ifs” of your dilemma.

As I push my spade into the earth, I’m not thinking consciously about anything other than the sun on my back and the physical motion of turning over the soil. It’s immersive. And when I straighten up and look back over the freshly dug patch, I can almost guarantee you that I’ve got the beginnings of an idea forming, a chink of light under a door I hadn’t noticed, the first baby steps on a way forward.

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Mental Health, Conflict and Kindness

By Andrew Boyd, Mediator

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, with this year’s theme being ‘kindness’.

In 2015 I wrote a blog for the SCCR which I called ‘Conflict & Mental Health – a chicken and egg situation?’ When we are struggling with conflict, our mental health can suffer but also when our mental health is poor, our ability to manage conflict effectively, can be compromised. I’ve been reflecting during Mental Health Awareness Week and I’m now adding kindness into the mix.

Kindness is central to our mental health and particularly when we are under great stress, kindness can bring people together. When we are kind to others or kindness is shown to us, our emotional wellbeing improves. Kindness has perhaps never been more important and can be key to managing and resolving conflict. We can all hopefully think of times during this lockdown period when our mental health has benefited from either giving or receiving acts of kindness.

So how does kindness integrate into our relationship between conflict and our mental health? Conflict is challenging for all of us and managing it can sometimes feel a step too far and so we avoid dealing with things, but rarely does the conflict go away and left unresolved it can often seem more difficult to address. Often when we avoid conflict our mental health can be severely compromised.

On the other hand when we do address the issues and get things resolved, it feels really great. Resolution positively impacts our mental health. When we add kindness into the conflict resolution mix we often see and feel a change in dynamics. When we communicate in a kind manner the messages become easier to actively listen to and it is easier to take the other persons views on board. It’s not about agreeing, compromising or not playing hard-ball but introducing the human element can make all the difference, with the potential for better mental health for all those involved.

So when we nudge out of lockdown, what will our new normal look like? There are some elements which we will have little control over but there are many more elements which we will have control over. Do we want to just go back to the old normal or do we want to have a better normal where kindness is more integral to what we do and say?

Read ‘Conflict & Mental Health – a chicken and egg situation?’ here.

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Mental Health Awareness Week: Kindness

By Stephen O'Rourke, Faculty of Advocates

How aware are any of us about our own mental health? I’d say we’re generally not as well aware as we should be. Like many health issues it can gradually build over time before reaching a moment of crisis. So unless we learn to look for the signs we can miss them. Like all health issues, there is no shame in acknowledging there may be a problem and the approach of previous generations, which often involved ‘toughing out’ life’s stressful times and refusing to talk about mental health, is fortunately no longer the only option available.

We all live busy lives full of commitments and deadlines. So how can we spot mental health problems brewing? If we do spot issues, what should we do?

The answer can be found in this year’s theme for Mental Health Awareness week, kindness. While we tend to think of kindness as something we show others in life, as part of our good deed for the day, in making that phone call to a friend or family member or in reaching out to be there for someone in our community, it is easy to forget that we need to be kind to ourselves too: because if charity begins at home then, in a similar way, we’re little use to others unless we’re in a good place ourselves.

Being kind to ourselves means recognising our own humanity and our own needs. And so the simple things like good sleep, regular meals, regular light exercise, a good routine, these things can save our lives. If you’re reading this right now, then I invite you to answer one set of simple questions:

  • How well did I sleep last night?
  • Did I do some light exercise yesterday or this morning?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how healthy is my diet?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how stressed do I feel?
  • When was the last time I spoke to anyone about my mental health?

Every day I work with people experiencing enormous stress in their lives due to difficult circumstances; and, in turn, I aim to manage the stress of how best to help them while remaining in a good space. I’ve learned to look for the signs and to read them – and I’ve done that myself just by asking those simple questions. I’ve found them helpful and I hope you do too. If the answers to these questions make you think your mental health is not what it should be, then maybe it’s time to talk to someone about it, most obviously your GP.

I’ve also been fortunate to work with the Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution in recent years and have seen first-hand the amazing work they do with families and young people in crisis. One thing I have learned from working with them is that conversations, even difficult or downright awkward conversations, are better than suffering in silence. When people take the risk of speaking out it can be a frightening experience: how will the other person or people in the conflict react? There may be fears about not just what the other person will say, but also what they might do.

That’s why talking to someone in confidence outside of the conflict might help enormously and could lead to a better way of dealing with the conflict you’re experiencing. In addition to its own resources available through this website, SCCR also has strong partnerships with Young Scot, Parent Club Scotland and other resources available through the Scottish Government. As these challenging times have demonstrated people do care, reaching out is important, kindness does matter in our lives and we can make a difference both for ourselves and others.

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Young Scot in Partnership with SCCR

By Louise Macdonald OBE, CEO, Young Scot

It’s normal for young people to feel anxious and overwhelmed by what they’re hearing about COVID-19 right now, and the need for specialised youth information has never been greater. 

As their daily routines change, the impact on young people’s lives is enormous. Many are not attending work, college, university or their Modern Apprenticeships. Others are dealing with illness, self-isolating or caring for a family member or someone in the community. For others, they are worried about what school closures mean for their future. 

To help young people through this crisis, we quickly developed a quality-assured information platform populated with youth information and support around COVID-19. The information includes the steps to take to avoid catching COVID-19 and how to prevent spreading it to others. We also developed information on emotional wellbeing and mental health, money, finance and how to support others in the community. The information continues to be shared on Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and YouTube. This is helping to reach young people in the digital spaces they spend their time in.

At Young Scot, a key part of our strategy is collaborating with information partners. This helps us to ensure that we share only the highest-quality information. It also helps us to challenge the misinformation that young people often are exposed to.

Soon after the start of lockdown we began to hear from young people about their concern over conflicts resulting from spending more time at home with family, carers or loved ones  creating difficult situations, especially for those coping with family problems or worrying about COVID-19. We immediately identified that the Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution’s (SCCR) expertise in mediation and understanding of conflict could help to support young people during this time.

The SCCR and Young Scot teams quickly began working together and we were soon able to publish specialised youth information on how to resolve conflicts. The information focuses on understanding what starts conflict, which helps young people to understand how to resolve it. It also includes tips for how to react when upset by something someone has said or done. To support young people’s emotional wellbeing, SCCR also included information on how emotions work, and advice on what to do if young people are struggling to manage them.

The information was shared widely with young people via our social media channels. We also invited young people to send us their questions about conflict and arguments, with  Duncan Gordon, Diane Marr and Andrew Boyd from SCCR filming their responses to the questions, which we shared on our YouTube channel.

We are incredibly thankful to the SCCR for the support they’ve given young people during these challenging weeks and months. Partnerships such as these help Young Scot maintain our commitment to providing young people with the information they need to make informed decisions and choices – especially in times of such turmoil and uncertainty.

For more information visit:
www.young.scot/coronavirus

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A day out at the SCCR Conference

By Pupils from Dalziel High and Mrs Nielsen

Hello!

We are four S4 pupils from Dalziel High School in Motherwell. Our teacher (Mrs Nielsen) was showing us some new video clips from SCCR when we quickly realised that there were no sub-titles.

Sub-titles matter to us because we are deaf, and we wanted to understand what the messages were. So we emailed SCCR and asked why there were no subtitles. We received a reply to say that they would try to do something about this…

Very soon we heard back from SCCR that they had some students from Napier University working on the materials. We then received an invitation to their 2020 Conference in Edinburgh.

We had to get permission slips from our parents and initially, we were going to take the train from Motherwell to Edinburgh. However, Mrs Nielsen decided to take her son’s car (which is a jeep) so that we could spend more time at the conference.

Andrew from the SCCR met us in the car park (after Mrs N’s dodgy parking) and took us to the conference. Andrew gave us our delegate passes.

We couldn’t believe the number of people attending, but we were very pleased that we had a seat at the front. Dr Vanessa Collinridge was speaking and then she came and asked us questions when she was getting udience contributions. That felt a bit embarrassing, but we managed to speak out. The break was so good as we had lots of things to eat and drink: it felt very grown up.

Then there was a workshop with Andrew and Duncan from the SCCR where we looked at the new “homunculus” cards and talked about feelings and emotions and the effects on the body. Again we all spoke out and we really enjoyed that.

Lunch was a high point of the day because the food was delicious (even better than a half-pizza crunch which is Jamie’s favourite) and then we went to the “Brain Box” chill-out room which had been set up for us by Yvonne from the SCCR. This was relaxing and fun and we even had more sweets and popcorn. Brilliant!

After lunch we heard Callum Hutchison speak about his difficult childhood. This had some of us in tears as he had been through such a lot, but he is now in a much better place and is trying to help other people who are living with conflict. We think he should be really proud of himself and we would like him to come to our school to speak to all of the year groups. We had our photos taken with Callum and also with Maree Todd who is the Minister for Children and Young People.

After Gordon Jackson QC from the Faculty of Advocates had spoken about the legal system in Scotland (while wearing Diane’s glasses, due to a malfunction with his own) it was time for us to leave. We popped downstairs for some more snacks in case we got hungry on the way home and then Mrs Nielsen dropped us all off at our houses.

Before we went to the conference, we weren’t sure what it would be like, but we had an amazing time. We felt as though people really wanted us to be there and to hear what we thought about the materials which can be used to help young people understand what conflict is and to find better ways of dealing with it in their lives. The two quizzes “Monkey V Lizard” and “Keep the Heid” are really good, and now that the video clips have sub-titles, we think that all young people in Scotland should have the chance to look at them.

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Love is all you need…

By Ewan Aitken

Today we are faced with a unique, confusing and downright scary global crisis. We are living in uncertain times, but one thing that is certain is the importance of human relationships.

Here at SCCR, we work to resolve conflict in the home and maintain relationships between family members to reduce youth homelessness. Presently, many families will be “locked down” together which increases the amount of time they all spent under one roof and thus, could exacerbate an already stressful environment and the chance of conflict.

Relationship dynamics between family members can be challenging at any time, however, this is an exceptional and particularly testing situation. When families are quarantined together, personalities can clash and disagreements can feel heightened, which is why we encourage people to use our resources to find ways to better communicate when things feel tough.

In his blog below, Cyrenians CEO Ewan Aitken, reflects on his experience at the SCCR 10th annual conference held earlier this year, at which he gave a speech about the infinite value of human love and relationships. The power of showing and receiving love on one’s wellbeing and quality of life cannot be underestimated. A sentiment we all need reminding of during these difficult times.

Earlier this year, I spoke at the 10th anniversary conference of our Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution (SCCR) – ‘The Faces of Transition’. It was a great day shared amongst colleagues and friends from across the sector, as well as guests from far and wide, to reflect on how we might tackle conflict, one of the main triggers for homelessness. My grateful thanks and congratulations goes to the colleagues and collaborators who worked so hard to make the day so special.

In Scotland alone, family conflict accounts for over 4,000 young people becoming homeless every year – the equivalent of the number of students in around four secondary schools.

We know that, if you live in a household struggling to get by, you’re more at risk of strained relationships and conflict – the stress of financial and social worries feeling unmanageable. Things can spiral out of control, and relationships become fractured. The young people that leave will then live an insecure, transitory existence; sleeping on sofas, in and out of institutions, or on the streets.

The impact on the outcomes for those experiencing homelessness – on health and wellbeing, on educational and employment prospects, on life expectancy – is profound, and deeply unjust.

We have to see homelessness from this wider perspective – one that takes into account the whole story of individuals, how the various aspects of their lives relate to one another, and how they relate to wider social structures. This is not an isolated issue.

One particularly poignant moment for myself on the day of our conference was hearing Callum Hutchison from the Violence Reduction Unit talk. He described a turning point in his life, as a result of the simple act of one person reaching out to another and saying ‘is there anything I can help you with?’ He could not, as he put it, remember the last time someone reached out to him like that.

I thank him for generously sharing his story. Callum now works with the organisation that ‘intervened’ with him that day, and described their ethos as this – ‘we don’t do things to people. We do things with people’. This is exactly how we work at Cyrenians, because we know that it works.

In Cyrenians, core to our way of working is Carl Roger’s principle of ‘unconditional positive regard’ – unconditional; seeing and accepting the person, the human being before us without judgement; positive; accepting with warmth and care; regard; seeing all of someone’s story as theirs to hold and share as part of a growing relationship not ours to use as a prism to see them through.

Its hard work. It’s really challenging and requires us each to be resilient, to nurture our resilience and be rooted in our values. But one of the ways I think we can make it easier on ourselves is not to just describe it or understand it as a theory of practice or a way of working but simply and first and foremost as an act of human love. Because when we know we are loved and that our love for others is accepted we can truly flourish and be fully human.

We have some of the most progressive housing legislation in the world in Scotland – but we’re falling short on preventative work, and more needs to be done. It’s why we as an organisation put so much work into resolving conflict through the SCCR, and our mediation and support services – among many other projects.

While I’m proud to lead an organisation dedicated to tackling the causes and consequences of homelessness – that understands the importance of early intervention and prevention – I’m even more proud and humbled to work with a whole community of people who share that aim, and engage in that hard work, with real passion and genuine love.

To find out more about the conference, visit: https://scottishconflictresolution.org.uk/conferences/conference-2020

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Giving Children and Young People a Voice

By Andrew Boyd, Mediator

This week is Family Mediation Week (20-24th January), which aims to raise awareness of mediation and how it can help separating families manage their issues collaboratively and productively.

Relationships Scotland are Scotland’s largest provider of relationship counselling and family mediation. Their Family Mediation service provides a space for separating or ­separated parents to discuss and plan future arrangements for their ­children with a third person, the mediator, there to help them to have a productive conversation.

Rosanne Cubitt, Head of Practice for Mediation at Relationship Scotland recently wrote a blog for the Relationships Scotland website, where she highlights the importance of ‘kids having opinions too’. Rosanne wrote, ‘It is important for children to feel heard and for their experiences and views to be considered. Research shows that most children want to be involved in decisions that affect them and it is good for their mental health and wellbeing for them to talk and feel listened to. Listening to children is not about them being the decision maker, but having a voice.’

Working as part of Cyrenians, the Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution (SCCR) is a national resource, promoting and supporting best practice in mediation, family conflict resolution and early intervention work, with a particular focus around young people and families. Cyrenians’ Mediation and Support service offers an early intervention approach to prevent relationship breakdown, offering both one-to-one support and mediation. Last year 98% of the young people that worked with the Mediation and Support service remained at home, returned home or moved out in a supported way. It is clear that mediation provides an effective space for children and young people to express their needs and for them to be listened to. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is clear that children who are capable of forming their own views, have the right to express them freely in matters affecting them and the subsequent right for those views to be given due weight, according to the child’s age and maturity.

On 29th January the SCCR is holding its Annual Conference with the theme of ‘The Faces of Transition’. Inspired by the Roman God Janus, the conference explores the themes of beginnings and endings of conflict, transitions, time, duality and how our past can impact our future but does not define us. We are fortunate that there will be some young people attending and contributing to our conference. The young people will be telling us about their own experiences of mediation and in particular how peer mediation has benefited their school communities.

Young people are the future so it is vital that we listen to their views, benefit from their wisdom and act to make Scotland the best place for children to grow up.

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By Karen Holford, Family Ministries Director for the Trans-European Division

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