An Ayrshire volunteer with See Me, Scotland has urged others to step up and join their bid to end mental health stigma and discrimination.

Tommy Kelly, from Saltcoats, has volunteered with the charity since 2014, when they helped him overcome an eating disorder.

And he says his time with the programme has offered him opportunities to influence change on a larger scale.

That includes addressing the Scottish Parliament - and appearing on STV with former cricketer Freddie Flintoff to discuss their eating disorders.

Ayr Advertiser: See Me, Scotland

Tommy said: "At the time when I started volunteering, I was recovering from an eating disorder, and I found that no one really understood how to support a man with an eating disorder, especially in a psychiatric unit.

"I did a random search on my phone about how to combat this kind of stigma in mental health and found See Me.

“As a volunteer I’ve got involved with various pieces of work for the programme. The first time I'd ever done anything was for Eating Disorder Awareness Week in 2015.

"I told my story at Scottish Parliament in front of what must have been about 500 people. If it helps one person never get to the stage I was at, that’s the reason why I do it."

Although nearly 80 per cent of Scots say their attitude towards mental health has got better in the last two decades, about 30 per cent of people said they would stop themselves from speaking about their mental health – all for fear of getting a negative reaction.

See Me, Scotland’s national programme to end mental health stigma and discrimination, is now searching for new volunteers from across the country with different experiences and backgrounds to play a part in the next phase of the programme’s work.

Volunteers with experience of mental health problems play a central role in See Me, speaking at events, sharing their stories in the media, influencing government police, helping to design resources, running events and encouraging other people in their communities to join the movement to end mental health stigma and discrimination.

Ayr Advertiser: Tommy Kelly

Tommy said: “One of the biggest impacts I think I’ve had with See Me, was after Eating Disorder Awareness Week where people, like my family members or people who struggled with mental health, either emailed me or messaged me telling me how beneficial my story was to them, where their son, daughter or partner came forward to get the help they needed.

"I didn’t realise how much of an impact I could have.”

He revealed: “Before getting involved with See Me, I was always somebody who was socially anxious. I struggled with face-to-face interactions. I never thought I’d be able to stand up in front of so many people and speak about my eating disorder.

“It led on to me speaking on STV, on BBC with Freddie Flintoff speaking about his eating disorder. Recently, I was part of a documentary that aired on BBC about men with eating disorders.

“See Me really helps you find the thing you’re really great at, and encourages you to develop those skills – and you’ll meet great friends along the way as well.

Ayr Advertiser: See Me, Scotland

“The biggest thing about mental health in my experience, is that it thrives in secrecy. Being part of See Me is taking back control and speaking about it. It really breaks down the stigma. You never understand the impact it's going to make – not only in your journey to help you recover, but also somebody else out there.”

Wendy Halliday, director for See Me, added: “The work See Me undertakes is all driven by a social movement of people across Scotland who are determined to end mental health stigma and discrimination – and our volunteers are central to this.

“It’s really important that our volunteers are representative of different communities and experiences to reflect the diverse experience of people with mental health problems in Scotland.

“Our Scottish Mental Illness Stigma Study showed us that people with experience of severe, enduring and complex mental illnesses across Scotland are withdrawing from opportunities which many of us take for granted – all because of stigma and discrimination.

“Our volunteers help us to tackle this major barrier, we’re really looking forward to seeing what our new volunteers will bring to the programme.”

More details on how to apply can be found at The deadline for applications is Friday, October 20 at 5pm.