Laois people are being asked to get out on the roadside this Friday evening May 8 to cheer on hundreds of passing cyclists, as the national Cycle Against Suicide stops overnight here for the first time.
The cycle is led by businessman Jim Breen who founded it in light of rising suicide figures, to spread the message ‘It’s ok not to be ok, and it’s absolutely ok to ask for help’.
At each stopover they visit schools and halls, promoting the supports available to those experiencing depression or thoughts of suicide.
The mammoth 1400 km cycle around Ireland set off from Belfast on March 29, with hundreds of cyclists including Laois Homestay co-ordinator, Portlaoise prison officer Christy Bannon.
He spoke during a quick break from his bike.
“There is a great mood in camp, great camaraderie, it’s like a big family, though we have had four seasons in one day with the weather,” he said.
This Friday they set out from Thurles, to arrive via the Abbeyleix road in Portlaoise at around 6.20pm. Joining in on that 60k leg is a team of students and teachers from Scoil Chriost Ri, Laois co-hosts along with St Mary’s CBS.
“I ask everyone to come out and give us a cheer, and wave something orange,” Christy said.
As Homestay co-ordinator, he is also asking people to give a hot meal and a bed to a cyclist on Friday night.
“The public have been great so far, with beds offered not just in Portlaoise but in surrounding towns, but we still need more,” he said.
The cycle stops at St Mary’s CBS and Scoil Chriost Rí on the Borris road.
A warm welcome awaits them, and the schools are inviting the public to be part of that big Laois welcome.
“It’s a great honour for our schools to host the cycle. We are busy preparing for what will be an exciting and energetic event and urge the community of Portlaoise to come out in support both on Friday evening and Saturday morning,” said CBS teacher Stephanie Buckley.
The cyclists will enjoy some refreshments, music, entertainment, and importantly meet their ‘homestay’ hosts.
On Saturday morning, the cyclists will regroup at the campus at 9am for a mental health event in the hall.
There will be celebrity guest speakers, student performances and a display by both schools’ Amber flag teams, who have been promoting good mental health over the year.
Local mental health organisations will also be on hand with information about the supports they offer.
Then it is onwards to Tullamore and Mullingar. The cycle leaves at 10.30 am, this time joined by some students and teachers from St Mary’s CBS.
Scoil Chriost Ri guidance teacher is Madeleine Hearne.
“The idea is to raise awareness of the help and supports that are available for anyone battling depression, self-harm, at risk of suicide or those bereaved by suicide,” she said.
The cycle finishes up at the RTE studios in Dublin, on Sunday evening May 10.
To offer accommodation on Friday night to a cyclist, contact Christy Bannon to 086 8598461, or register at www.cycleagainstsuicide.com