A newborn social media group makes positivity its banner, and mutual support and encouragement its sole aim. It reaches out to Gibraltarians who feel lonely and isolated, with a number of socialising initiatives in the pipeline. The first one, which is also regarded as a kind of ‘almost official’ presentation of the group No One Deserves to Be Forgotten to the wider public, will take place (weather and Covid-19 public health regulations permitting) on the afternoon of the 5th of April at Commonwealth Park. It will be an informal picnic open to members and prospective members.

Founder and main administrator Thomas Lawrie, originally from York and working in Gibraltar as an elderly care enrolled nurse for ten years, invites everyone wishing to take part to turn up with some finger food and a bottle of soft drink, if they can, and cement the friendships that are already blossoming online.

Under the banner ‘No one deserves to be forgotten / No one deserves to fade away / No one should come and go / And have no one know / they were even there / No one deserves / To disappear / To disappear…’ the group has grown to almost 5,000 members in the first three weeks since its inception in mid-February.

“I started this Facebook group because I was going through a bad patch of anxiety and depression,” Thomas explains, “and wanted to create a safe place for me and a network of likeminded people to talk and relate to.”

The idea is to openly talk about mental health, exorcising taboos and expunging stigmas. Members post positive messages, pictures and quotes to brighten up each other’s day, and make it a little less hard to get through it. It is also a platform to voice one’s feelings, concerns, hopes and fears, and for seeking each other’s support and advice, sharing experiences and feedback.

“Emotions have no age or gender,”

No negativity, smugness, or trolling are allowed, but it is ok to break down and cry out one’s darkest feelings, because expressing oneself is the natural way to work out the issue and self-heal. Supportive response and advice are encouraged, as long as they are kept empathetic and non-judgemental.

Thomas says that he would like to strike off the word ‘mental’ from the expression ‘mental health’, to describe it just as ‘health’, without making distinctions between physical and mental, since they are interconnected or associated, and all of us will unfortunately suffer of either or both at some point in our lives. A person is made of body and mind into a single inseparable entity.

Another commonplace he wants to knock down, in the name of gender equality and anti-ageism, is that men don’t suffer and don’t cry. “Emotions have no age or gender,” he says. And he warns that men do cry. Alone. And suffer in silence. So, mental health issues often go undiagnosed with them until they become severe and unmanageable.

Other people’s experiences are always a great tool to rationalise and confront one’s own situation, although the group reiterates that, so far, there are no professionals in the group to intervene in severe cases, so anyone feeling particularly hopeless and blue should seek immediate help contacting the numbers listed at the top of the page [and at the end of this article].

Most No One Deserves to Be Forgotten members are dealing with depression and anxiety, at different degrees of severity, but all mental health issues sufferers are welcome to join in, should they feel the need for a friendly shoulder to cry on.

Thomas and the other administrators, Sally Alecio and Gillaine Robles, reassure everyone feeling unready to pour their hearts on a public page that they are available to listen via private messaging or phone call. Or of course meet in person for the good ol’ coffee-and-chat fix!

I’ve been there and can tell you there is light.

Gillaine says: “I’ve suffered from depression and, coming across this group, I thought it’s amazing how people can open up to each other. Thomas asked me if I wanted to be administrator and, although I am not a professional, I didn’t hesitate to accept, because I believe this group is getting a great response. We needed a group like this. We don’t judge. We listen and encourage everyone to find a way out. It’s ok to make mistakes, we all do, but we must forward with love, hope, kindness and understanding.”

She continues: “I believe this group will help many people to make their day, each day, a little brighter. If my testimony can help just one person, then it will be worthwhile for me: I’ve been there and can tell you there is light. We feel better if we acknowledge we are free to talk about what is going on in our minds, and if we feel listened to.”

Sally adds: “Thomas approached me to become an admin and I instantly jumped on board with a yes. Like many people these days, I have family members struggling with severe anxiety and depression. After years of counselling I felt I could be of help to those suffering on the other side of the screen; if nothing else, I will be able to listen and perhaps share some lessons I’ve learnt along the way, as well as learn new ones. I enjoy sharing posts on social media, if this can help other people.”

Join the group by searching No One Deserves to Be Forgotten on Facebook.
If you or someone you know is suffering, seek professional advice, such as the Community Mental Health Team (200 42307 or 200 41659 – emergency on 200 07831), GibSams (116123), or Clubhouse (200 68423).