We are fortunate enough to live in a country that is rarely affected by natural disaster. When Storm Brian rattled our window frames last month, the internet was abundant in memes joking that a storm named Brian sounded “like the nicest hurricane ever” who might kindly mow your lawn or blow the leaves into a neat pile. Instead, one of the greatest threats to the livelihood of Scotland’s youth is a less tangible catastrophe; mental illness. It swarms around us like a nest of disgruntled wasps, threatening to sting without discrimination, an intimidating obstacle to the path ahead.

For young people in Scotland suffering from mental health issues the future does not evoke feelings of hope nor excitement; it is a terrifying and dark expanse that lies in wait. As children, we dream of what we want to be when we grow up; firefighters, actors, doctors, sporting legends. We are told that we can be whoever and whatever we want to be, if only we put our minds to it. But when mental health affects your daily life and your brain works against you, not for you, what were once possibilities can seem like impossibilities.

The number of suicides in Scotland rose by 8% from 2015-2016, yet barriers such as stigma and a lack of resources are keeping us from halting this disturbing increase. But Create Paisley is a platform and network working towards making the future a reality again for young people in Scotland, regaining control of mental illness in ways that cannot be resisted like an antibiotic.

They put on regular Create Café nights, where 12-21 year olds are welcome to participate actively or passively, in a haven of open minds among an understanding cohort. They provide mechanisms of expression and communication through the arts and establish community amongst people who so desperately need support and the motivation to keep going, to achieve; even if not in the way they originally imagined. They have created programmes run by professionals to encourage creativity as a means to progress; inspiring Scotland’s youth to explore skill sets which can transport you not only across the world but away from the turmoil of your own mind.

The arts are proving to be a potent prescription and are made accessible to many, thanks to volunteers at Create Paisley. Through writing, the thoughts that scramble around in your head can be put down on paper; altered, abbreviated, added to and arranged, settling into sensical sentences. Expressive writing has proven to have both emotional and physical health benefits in trauma survivors and those suffering from psychiatric disorders. Music has been shown to reduce heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure and a depressive mood. It can stimulate you on a neurological level to alter mental states and may even increase response to antidepressants. Filmmaking, photography and art are also on the menu.

You cannot always see issues with mental health; there are no blood tests to prove it or vaccines against it. But in boosting creativity we not only provide sufferers with an antidote that is in itself enjoyable, we are using a language that is more communicable and less abrasive to a wider audience. Bit by bit the constricting mould of mental health is breaking, and the future glistens on the horizon once more.

by Mimi Dickson