Tattoo boss wants to wipe out mental health stigma

Darren Millar will donate his proceeds to charity. Picture: Jon Savage
Darren Millar will donate his proceeds to charity. Picture: Jon Savage
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A tattoo studio is hosting an event to raise awareness of mental health after a rise in customers wanting cover-ups for self harm scars.

Owner of Blkwrk Studio Darren Millar wants to end the stigma that people feel they cannot talk about their feelings while suffering with mental illness.

The Haymarket Terrace studio will carry out tattoo designs based on mental health with all proceeds going to the Josh Nolan Foundation - founded in 2014 by Laura Nolan who has experienced trauma first hand after losing her 22-year-old son to suicide.

Darren said: “A lot of my younger clients are ticking boxes on the consent form that they’re on medication or wanting self-harm scars covering.

“There’s too much of a stigma and people are not willing to talk about how they’re feeling. It’s only going to get worse if they don’t speak.

“There’s plenty of people to speak to, it’s just getting the confidence to do so.”

With an average of two people dying by suicide every day in Scotland and rates around 20 per cent higher than the UK average, there’s no time to waste, according to Laura.

The charity provides counselling free of charge and wants to prevent people waiting for months to access therapy. The Josh Nolan Foundation launched an urgent appeal last month for financial support to help keep its doors open.

Laura said: “Close to 800 people died of suicide last year in Scotland, with 80 per cent of those being male. We need to talk more about how we feel or it will just continue to rise. There is nothing shameful about showing emotion, it’s a sign of strength. It’s ok to show you’re not feeling ok. Teenagers especially wanting self-harm marks covering up is shocking. I think schools need to start teaching people how to look after their mental as well as physical health.

“I started the charity because Josh needed help, then I needed it. We’ve provided 350 counselling sessions in and around Edinburgh since we started. We’re not government funded so we need help to continue this desperately needed service.”

The tattoo event is taking place on Thursday with walk-ins welcome between 10am and 7pm. Customers are encouraged to bring in their own ideas and tattoos will be provided from a cut-price £20. A raffle will also be available with plenty of prizes donated by generous local businesses.

Darren says if the fundraiser helps just one person then it will make the effort worthwhile. He added: “I’ve known Laura for many years and I have no idea where she finds the strength to continue. I hope we are able to get through to people who are suffering from mental illness that they are not alone.”

To donate to the Josh Nolan Foundation, go to https://mydonate.bt.com/events/savejnf