SoS January Drop-In: Robert Nesbitt of SAMH

Supporting Our Supporters, the mental health drop-in run by Hibernian Community Foundation volunteers, held their most recent meeting in the West Stand on Monday the 29th January. Arranged for the last Monday of each month, these get-togethers have been revamped for 2024 with the time slot switching to 7pm-8.30pm, with guest speakers organised for an ongoing series of ‘an evening with’ style events!


This drop-in featured a motivational talk by Robert Nesbitt, the Head of Physical Activity and Sport at Scottish Action for Mental Health (SAMH). Pre-dating the NHS, SAMH have been Scotland’s national mental health charity since 1923 and can trace their roots back to the early 1900s. Throughout his 28 years with SAMH, Robert has been passionate about the work undertaken by the organisation in striving towards a mentally healthy Scotland.


Robert’s audience comprised fans who had been through The Changing Room or attended the monthly drop-ins, as well as Gregor Dow, a SAMH coach responsible for delivering The Changing Room at Hibs.


Robert spoke of his pride at having been at the forefront of creating these ‘safe spaces,’ where men are encouraged to share experiences and develop tools to not only look after their own mental health, but ‘pay this forward’ to family, friends, and workmates. He described the landscape when he first joined SAMH in 1996, aged 23, providing one-on-one support in Dumbarton.


Back then, the stigma associated with mental health meant denial or remaining silent while trying to cope were the ‘default modes.’ He contrasted this with today’s increasing emphasis on positive mental health. Robert gave an insight into his involvement with initiating The Changing Room, when ‘men in middle years’ were targeted as a demographic particularly prone to ‘bottling up’ unhealthy feelings. Sport, especially football, was identified as a common denominator that often did encourage men to be open.


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Robert Nesbitt


Together with his SAMH colleague, Pher Nicolson, The Changing Room was pioneered at Easter Road, using football as a prompt to encourage men to talk about their mental health. As Robert reiterated, The Changing Room was about providing a space where people with individual stories could identify common themes, making them feel less isolated and more valued. He asked participants their reasons for joining The Changing Room or attending the drop-ins. One man said meeting fellow Hibees with mental health experiences had inspired him to get involved with outreach programmes aimed at schoolkids with Neurodiversity. Another spoke of The Changing Room providing a lifeline when he had gone through a major depressive episode.


Robert admitted he felt humbled to have been welcomed as the guest speaker; listening to the stories around the group had been inspirational to him. He concluded by saying he was full of praise for everyone who had embraced this programme and had now found a trusted network of friends offering ongoing support via the SoS platform.


Next month’s SoS meeting will be ‘an evening with the entertaining and thought-provoking guys from Longbangers Hibs podcast.’ Pop Monday 26th February, 7-8.30pm into your diary.


Words by Mark Fleming