A Glasgow cleansing worker who struggled with his mental health after the death of his two younger brothers is urging his coworkers to speak up if they are feeling low over the festive period. 

Robert MacVicar, 42, who is also a shop steward for the city council’s cleansing department, says he suffered from anxiety, stress, bereavement issues and was “in a dark place” following the loss of his siblings in 2016 and 2017.  

Robert, who has struggled with depression and low self esteem, says it took almost two years to understand what had happened. 

He said: “It took me almost two years to come together and I was absent from work for eight months with depression and low self esteem.

“I became alcohol dependent throughout and I had difficulty understanding the loss of two brothers so young. It was a living nightmare in my head everyday.”

This year two members of Glasgow’s cleansing department sadly lost their life to mental illness. 

Robert, who is backing the GMB’s lean on my shoulder campaign, says more needs to be done to raise awareness about mental health and how it can affect anyone at any time. 

He is also urging his colleagues not to “suffer in silence” and to speak out and talk to one another if they are struggling so they can get the help they need.  

He said: “One of my good friends, who I had known for nearly 26 years and was the life and soul of the depot, took his own life this year.

“He was one of the funniest people you could ever meet. 

“There was another boy who worked for us, who struggled with addiction and depression, and also took his own life. That’s two members of staff we have lost – it is too close to home.”

Robert spoke about how loss had impacted his personal life over the years. 

He continued: “I lost my younger brothers as well. One was 17 and the other was 26 years old. It is concurrent. 

“I feel like  an influx of people around me are just collapsing and it has impacted my own mental health. I have had anxiety, stress and bereavement issues. 

“But I am so fortunate that I managed to turn the corner. That’s why I am telling the lads that I have been to a dark place and experienced the anguish.”

The “lean on my shoulder” campaign is designed to raise awareness over the festive season and encourage workers to look out for the physical and mental welfare of their fellow colleagues – particularly when it comes to mental health and addiction. 

Workers are being told what signs to look out for and if someone’s demeanour changes, ask them if they want to talk or need any help.

He went on: “I have been doing my best to raise awareness. We have been telling the lads at the depots that now is their chance to open up to us and have been urging them to do so.

“The world is a better place if we pull together. Please don’t just sit and suffer in silence. We have been telling our workers to open up because life is too important. Your life and mental wellbeing is more important than emptying bins.

“Don’t worry about work, don’t worry about finances, it can be fixed. There are so many benefit schemes that can help.  “There is nothing worse than having to bury one of your own. I don’t want to see any other family go through that.”

Robert also thinks that medical help should be more accessible to everyone.  He went on: “I feel like since covid it is harder to get a doctor’s appointment or consultation to seek medical help. It is just phone consultations that seem to be available.

“One to one consultations need to be ramped up otherwise we don’t stand a chance. It is all very well handing someone a pamphlet but if someone is depressed, you can hand them anything, they can’t focus on it.”

Anyone struggling this Christmas or worried about a loved one can also contact Samaritans on 116 123.

More information can be accessed on their website via https://www.samaritans.org/scotland/how-we-can-help/contact-samaritan/