Theatre Nemo, a charity with a mission to break down the stigma and isolation associated with mental health issues and help to reduce suicide or suicidal thoughts by supporting people to feel good about themselves is celebrating its 20th anniversary. I had the fortune of stumbling upon this humbling organisation, rewarding founder Isabel McCue MBE with an Outstanding Women of Scotland award at the Saltire Society’s event at the Glasgow Women’s Library.

Isabel spoke with The Fountain about the difficult lead up to establishing Theatre Nemo and her plans to bring that within a bigger entity, Join The Dots.

TF: So Theatre Nemo has been operating for twenty years, quite the landmark, what inspired the establishment all those years ago?

Nemo means no-one. After the death of my husband I tried to get help for my son John, and it was just the way we were treated and nobody paid any attention and it just went on and on. For eight years we never really got anywhere. He was in and out of hospital but no-one actually listened to what the issue was, and John took his own life on 12th May 2000. Coming into contact with others up visiting, people in psychiatric hospitals and then eventually when John was in prison for six months and seeing what was going on there, I thought there is something not just right here, something’s not working. Everybody was in the same position, they weren’t getting the answers or being listened to.

Also having been in the psychiatric hospitals when up visiting over the eight years, we would take up guitars, we would be singing, John’s a lovely singer and he would be writing songs, and we would try and encourage him to be doing things. And everyone would shuffle through the different wards when they heard the music and it just brightened them up and they would bring me wee poems that they had written. Why do they not have more people coming in, working with the patients? So something should be done to really stimulate people and help people feel good and it was really after John died (even though we had the charity name and we had it up and running) that we got a chance to do anything because life was too hectic. In that two years we were trying to build up and tell people and ask people what are you looking for, what’s missing and that’s really where it started.

TF: And since then you have taken it to psychiatric wards, what do you think of your progress when you look back at the last twenty years?

I think because we are such a small charity, (we have kept it small because we want it to be really so that people really felt a part of it) the people that have come in have made remarkable, wonderful progress, with what we’ve done. We’ve helped and supported hundreds and hundreds of people over the years so I am quite pleased really that it has helped so many people.

TF: You were also recently rewarded with an Outstanding Women of Scotland Award for the work that you do, are you able to comment on that?

Yes, that was a real surprise. It just shows you whose watching what you’re doing, doesn’t it because you wonder who would’ve put me up for that. It’s quite humbling really that with just running a wee charity here, helping people to do a wee bit of art, a wee bit of music. For people to see what it is you are doing and appreciate what has been happening is really nice.

TF: What can we look forward to from Theatre Nemo for the next twenty years to come, you have your AGM coming up soon?

Theatre Nemo itself, what we need to do is get more people, get a wee bit bigger and involve many other people or it will just fall by the wayside. Things are really getting quite difficult to keep getting funding and also we are part of a bigger picture which is Join the Dots, which we are trying to get up and running. And that is bringing all the other organisations together. And this particular charity (I am just waiting to get the charity recognition) would be in the first instance looking at supporting people coming out of prison trying to reduce re-offending, helping with homelessness and addiction. It would involve all the different organisations coming together so that they are getting the full support, not just a tiny bit of support here and there, but everything they would need to actually make their life better. We are looking for premises for that at the moment and that is the vision that Theatre Nemo would be a part of, this bigger picture.

TF: What personally are the perks of your job?

My job at the moment is really trying to engage with all the other different organisations and tell them what it is we are all doing. We need to work together, there are so many fantastic organisations as you know, all doing such wonderful stuff but individually we are not making the biggest difference we could make but if we could get people everything that they need under the one roof so that they don’t get lost and they can feel that there is a way out. I can picture it, I can see what it would do, it can be difficult to open that vision up to others because people think that we have got all that stuff, but we are making it difficult for people to reach it, instead of making it simple and easy for people to find the support that they need. Half the time they just don’t know where it is. It would cost a lot of money but it would save billions of pounds, people going to jail is costing us billions anyway. So that is what I am working on at the moment. It is very exciting but it is frustrating at the same time.

Theatre Nemo are celebrating their 20th birthday tonight, for more information click here.