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CalMac staff in Oban are flying the flag for mental health as a ‘beautiful’ colleague continues her recovery.
Popular Megan Baillie, 22, who worked on the MV Isle of Mull ferry, remains under specialist care nine months after attempting to take her own life on May 19.
A ‘livewire’ member of the team with a ‘smile which lit up the room,’ nearly 40 colleagues are taking part in the Megan’s Miles fundraising challenge from March.
They will carry out 126-miles of exercise each to represent the distance between the Oban terminal and the Astley Ainslie Hospital, Edinburgh.
Donations are going to the Scottish Association for Mental Health via an online JustGiving page set up by Megan’s friend Nicky MacKechnie, from Oban.
Nicky works aboard the MV Clansman and the pair bonded while serving their apprenticeships together.
In no time at all, the fund passed its £2,500 target and has now topped £4,400. Supporters have dug deep to help fund services for those often suffering in silence.
There had been no outward sign Megan was feeling the way she was. It was only later that ‘heartbreaking’ notes were found on her phone, her older sister Lauren told The Oban Times. It was clear Megan had been putting a brave face on, she said.
With that in mind, Megan’s mum Helen Hogarth urged people to talk and genuinely listen at all times – not just when people are ‘visibly’ down.
‘We need to get people talking before they feel that suicide is the only way out for them,’ said Helen.
‘Talking – not just when they’ve had one too many cocktails or pints and people think: ‘It’s just drink talk’.
‘Talking – not just when they’ve had a bad day at work and people think: ‘Aw, it’s fine things will get better’.
‘Talking – not just when they have split up from their boyfriend or girlfriend and people say: ‘Oh well, there’s plenty more fish in the sea’.
‘But instead, talking when they’ve had a good day – a funny, eventful, productive day – but when they still can only think about when, how and where to take their own lives.’
Despite her family initially being told she may not survive, Megan has shown remarkable strength and determination during her fightback.
While her memory has yet to return, she has been sitting up and talking but must learn to stand alone and walk again.
The family are keen to get her back to her North Ayrshire home where sister Lauren and younger brother Logan desperately await her return in Stevenston, along with step-dad Richard Hogarth, Megan’s dad Murdoch Baillie and step-mum Elaine McCulley.
Mum Helen added: ‘We have been so lucky to get a second chance with Megan but tragically not all families do.
‘That’s why what Megan’s CalMac work colleagues are doing to raise money for the Scottish Association for Mental Health is not only a fantastic and kind thing to do, but it is so important for awareness of mental health.’
Among the range of organisations the family thanked are first responders and those at the University Hospital Crosshouse ICU, and the Astley Ainslie Charles Bell Pavilion, which provides rehabilitation for patients with brain injuries.
Helen said all involved had done ‘absolutely everything in their power and ability to keep our beautiful girl here with us’.
She added: ‘They also believe that positive thoughts, prayers and well wishes from hundreds of friends and work colleagues have had a part to play.’
On Monday at the Oban Ferry Terminal, Megan’s colleagues Nicola MacKechnie, Alan MacInnes, Ian Rodgers and Keith MacMillan gathered in specially-made ‘Megan’s Miles’ t-shirts as the countdown to the challenge got under way.
They remember Megan as a ‘total livewire’ who, despite her young age, seamlessly slotted in to life onboard – holding her own with ‘guys who had been at sea for 35 years’.
As friend Ian Rodgers quipped: ‘Within a couple of weeks, Megan was running the ship!’
He added: ‘You’re living with people for two weeks and it’s one big family and everyone was genuinely devastated. The whole company is behind it – not just the crew on the boats, but the office as well.’
Recently, work colleagues took part in a special video call with Megan and could not believe the progress she had made. ‘She has blown us all away and is defying all the odds,’ said Ian.
You can donate at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/megansmarchmiles