Upwards of 250 people attended a very successful Mental Wellness night in Scotstown GAA Complex on Wed 13th November. There were contributions from Miffy Hoad, Area Development Officer with Mental Health Ireland; Derek Pepper, Development Officer with SHINE; Emer Mulligan, Resource Officer for Suicide Prevention; Margaret O’Leary from Cavan Monaghan Mental Health Services; as well as passionate and honest local speakers Dermot Foley, Lisa Smyth, and Niamh Maguire.

Dermot Foley, physiotherapist to the Scotstown team  qualified in 2004. He worked for 6 years before heading off to New Zealand where he first encountered anxiety and depression – manifested as anxiety, sleeplessness, and social isolation. To make a long story short, he came home and after attending a local GP he was put in touch with support services of St Davnet’s Hospital. He used the intervention of the Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) which is a symptom monitoring, crisis planning and self-help mental health recovery programme, and he “also found benefit in mindfulness and Wake Up Ireland”, a network of young people aged between 18 and 35 who practise the living art of mindfulness. This is an active global community and movement that has grown out of Plum Village meditation centre in SW France, and participants come together to practise mindfulness in order to take care of ourselves, nourish happiness and contribute to building a healthier and a more compassionate society.

Niamh Maguire from Ballinode bared her soul in a most honest account of how she first encountered stress related muscular seizures in 2011. Life was good – she had done a college degree, an Erasmus year in Madrid, a spell in China, and more study and employment in Dublin – but still her anxiety and seizures continued. Despite many hospital visits and neurological tests, no one could pinpoint the root of her problems; even St Patrick’s hospital in Dublin did not have a suitable treatment programme. She spoke about Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT),  a form of therapy that teaches mindfulness skills. There is also a large emphasis on connecting with values; to that which matters the most to us. This helps to align our actions and bring us towards where we really want to be. Niamh got in touch with a neuropsychologist in Newcastle, UK, and is now able to attend outreach or skype clinics. She recommended a balance – that the mind and body are linked, and she finds help in running and spinning exercises.

Lisa Smyth also was enjoying college life, but with 2 children, she described how all of a sudden her life was falling apart at the seams. Through her GP she was referred to St Davnet’s for support, but found that the drugs helped her symptoms but appeared to take the joy out of life. She described BPD – (borderline personality disorder) and how she was self harming since she was 11. She recognised that emotions are not facts -they are feelings, and she found help in mindfulness, taking exercise and clearing her head walking her dogs, and ridding her mind of negative and critical self talk – challenging her inner self to “speak” positively to her – as she said herself – you wouldn’t speak to anyone else like that! Lisa also said that no-one is going to come and bail me out of myself!” She also advised eating healthily, she gave up smoking, and reduced her alcohol intake. Though she admitted to still having an odd “rickedy” day, opening up to others has helped her; must people suffer from some glitch at some point. Above all, she has acceptance, and opening up to others has helped to eliminate the secrecy and “shame” that she felt it brought.

Margaret O’Leary spoke of the many services available – it’s not a one size fits all! She also spoke of the many new initiatives since St Davnet’s opened in 1869, and the development of the Home Based team in 1998, and “A Vision for Change” in 2006. Emer Mulligan, Resource Officer for Suicide Prevention, suggested that suicide prevention is everyone’s business and there are things we can all do to support each other when difficulties arise. People have to remember that they are not alone, and to reach out towards a helping hand or listening ear.

Miffy also reiterated the 5 ways to wellness  – connect, be active, take notice (be in the moment), keep learning, and Give!

Bernie Sherry from Scotstown GAA wellbeing team thanked the people for coming along, and to hear the personal journeys of people from our own community meant more that hearing from professionals. This was echoed by Cormac Sherry, Chairperson of the club. The community in attendance would particularly like to thank Dermot, Niamh and Lisa for their honest and touching accounts of their struggles – their stories offer encouragement and solace to anyone battling along on their own. There is help available and it’s not just “out there”. It’s available from your GP, it’s available out of hours, and it’s available in your own home. Don’t struggle alone – get help, you deserve it.

Here’s a contribution from JJ Sherlock on the night………

You hear the alarm and open your eyes,
But with the weight of the world you struggle to rise.
There’s darkness and voices that won’t go away,
Today’s diagnosis, you’re less than okay.

With turmoil and confusion, your mind is on fire,
Like your head is trapped in a tumble dryer.
But unlike the dryer, you can’t take out the fuse,
To switch off these feelings whenever you choose.

When people ask how you are, you might answer fantastic,
Very few realise that you’re being sarcastic.
You’ll avoid conversation just to stay in your bubble,
Or use some comical line to get yourself out of trouble.

There’s no point talking, sure they won’t understand,
It’s not just as simple as come on, you’ll be grand.
You start heeding those voices that are stuck in your head,
But they’re telling you lies and you’re being misled.

Talking is something you really should do,
It will help you see things from a different view.
When a problem is shared, it will weigh a lot less,
Maybe just the first step in the recovery process.

There’s always someone on whom you can depend,
Maybe some of your family or perhaps just a friend.
From a phone full of numbers for business or fun,
Out of all of those numbers, you need only one.

It’s not all about doctors and chewing on pills,
You can teach yourself your own coping skills.
To take back control when you have a bad day,
And accept who you are, when you’re less than okay.

J.S November 19©