A CRISIS hotline set up in memory of two friends who took their own lives hopes to expand its service to create a drop-in space for people who feel low.
Mikeysline was launched by friends and family of Michael Williamson and Martin Shaw, both 23, who died just days apart from each other.
Providing a text message service for people who need help, it has been taking messages from up to 12 people each weekend since it went live last month.
Now one of its co-founders Ron Williamson, the uncle of Michael Williamson, has revealed he hopes the service can raise enough money to create a "safe house" in Inverness where people can go.
He said: "We obviously have a long-term plan going forward and part of that plan is to take our message into schools and ultimately by the end of this year, I would hope to have a safe house, a room where anyone in desperate straits can drop in for a bacon butty and a chat."
Almost £2500 has been raised so far to get the crisis line up and running and friends of the two pals are planning a series of fundraising events this summer, including a charity football match, a skydive and an abseil, to raise more.
It was in early October that Michael "Mikey" Williamson, who was a barman at Wetherspoon’s in Church Street, and Martin Shaw, better known as "Porky", who worked in the construction industry, were found dead in their homes in Drynie Avenue, Hilton, and South Kessock, respectively. Their deaths sparked a huge outpouring of grief among their friends and families and led to an unprecedented vigil on Castle Hill, where scores of lanterns were released into the night sky in their memory.
Since then, several other young people are thought to have taken their own lives.
Mr Williamson, who lives in Southampton, said he had been overwhelmed by the public support for the crisis line, which is manned each weekend from 7pm on Friday to 7am on Monday.
The idea behind the ‘text-for-help’ line was to provide a service where people could find comfort, and be reminded they are not alone, without the pressure of actually talking to someone.
"The support really has been tremendous," he said. "The number of likes, shares and interactions we have had on Facebook and via the website have astounded me. I don’t know whether the number of contacts we have had is because of Christmas and New Year but I absolutely think there is a need for it."
He revealed the text service had been used by a range of age groups but the majority were young.
He added: "Some of them have been younger than I thought they were
going to be.
Mikeysline is now looking for more volunteers to help man the line one night a month and fundraise.
Mr Williamson said: "We are trying to build up a bank of volunteers because as we go into the new year, people have their own commitments. We have a question and answer session planned at the end of this month for people to find out more, as it is not for everyone.
"If you think you’re capable and willing to share your time with people in the darkest place, we would like to hear from you."
Anyone interested in finding out more can contact Mikeysline through its website — www.mikeysline.co.uk — or Facebook page.