Connect Community through Laois Mental Health Week

NEXT week marks the start of an initiative which is a new departure in how local people can become more aware of how to deal with mental health issues, and help those in crisis.

NEXT week marks the start of an initiative which is a new departure in how local people can become more aware of how to deal with mental health issues, and help those in crisis.

From September 15-22 Laois Community Forum will host Laois’ first ever countywide Mental Health Awareness Week. The event is called Laois Connects which stands for Community, Ourselves, Nature, Nurture, Engage, Coping, Talking and Support.

The week is being held to highlight the importance of taking care of mental health, and connecting or engaging with each other, the community and the health services available to people.

Sometimes awareness events can lack substance which can lead to nothing more of a PR exercise. Laois Connects differs substantially on two fronts. Firstly, the Forum is hosting the event in conjunction with the Laois Mental Health Collaborative Group, which works under the auspices of Laois County Development Board.

The Group includes the HSE, Laois Sports Partnership, Mental Health Ireland, SHINE, GROW, Laois County Council, Laois Partnership Company Ltd. and Laois VEC.

The involvement of these groups and agencies means that the resources and will to help have been made available to the organisers to organise a wide variety of events which are sure to be of help to individuals, communities and organisations. The Leinster Express is helping by promoting the events.

Secondly, the week long event will include talks and seminars on issues relating to good mental health, which tie in with the main theme. Key Speakers will take part in many seminars and workshops and various activities will be available from walks and mindfulness, to meditation and art therapy. All events will be free to the public, some need to be booked in advance.

The first event, which takes place on Saturday, September 15 in Portlaoise’s Parish Centre has a strong focus on who can be most at risk of mental health problems. Laois Comhairle na nÓg, in association with Youth Work Ireland (Laois) host an event called I Mind Stay connected. It has been developed and organised by young people and will be facilitated by experienced adults.

It is one of a number of events aimed at helping younger people during the week. Finola Colgan of Mental Health Ireland will work with transition year students in Portlaoise and Mountmellick. Dr Niall Muldoon, National Clinical Director of Children at Risk in Ireland will speak in Colaiste Iosagain, Portarlington on how to tune into teenagers well being.

Bernie Foran, the county librarian, will give details of self-help books for teenagers at a talk in Mountmellick. There is also another chance to see Wally, the documentary on the Portlaoise rapper, Wally O’Loughlin by Ann-Marie Kelly. The film inspired a mental health programme for teenagers.

The week also features some personal experience of mental illness. Caroline McGuigan is CEO and founder of Suicide or Survive. She experienced attempting suicide and the limited services provided. She spent 8 years as a user of the psychiatric services, leaving her with an in-depth knowledge of the medical model, how and why a person is diagnosed and the treatment they may receive in Ireland. She will speak in Portarlington.

Down but not out is the name of a talk about depression, which is sure to be popular, by the farmer, actress and author Mary McEvoy. Mary, who played Biddy in Glenroe, wrote a memoir of her experience with the condition which afflicts many. Margaret Healy, Chair of the IFA’s Farm Family and Social Affairs Committee will speak on the campaign to combat stress and remove the stigma of mental health.

Loss to Suicide a personal experience is the name of a talk by Bernie Carroll of the suicide bereavement support group, Midland Living Links in Portlaoise. In Graiguecullen, Rita Kelly of the HSE will speak on coping with loss.

The link between excercise and mental health is well established. Laois Connects includes events in Rossmore, Durrow, Clonaslee (Slieve Blooms), Graiguecullen, Luggacurren, Monavea, The Swan, culminating in a big event in Emo.

On Saturday, September 22 Dr Eddie Murphy from RTE’s ‘Operation Transformation’ will do a 4.5k fun walk in Emo Court. The Portarlington based psychologist will also give a motivational talk in Mountmellick on Wednesday, September 19 called Healthy mind, Healthy body.

Your Games Your Health, the link between sport and well being is the title of one of the big events during the week. Welcomed by Liam O’Neill, President GAA the guest speakers include: Michael Duignan, Offaly player/RTE Commentator and author of “Life, Death and Hurling.”

Colin Regan, GAA Community & Health Promotion manager and Martin Scully, Chairman of Leinster GAA will also speak at the meeting at the GAA Leinster Council Buildings on Tuesday, September 18.

Looking after your body in other ways to improve mental health will also be looked at. Carola Dietrich, HSE Dietician, will speak at a cookery demonstration in Mountrath on Tuesday, September 18

Another popular event in the same vein takes place on Wednesday, September 19 in St Fintan’s Hospital Portlaoise. TV3 chef Edward Hayden will give a cookery demonstration while Dr Henry O’Connell, consultant psychiatrist, will talk on ageing and health.

Other ways to deal with improving mental health will also be addressed. Angela Delaney, CNS in art therapy, will deliver a workshop on using creativity to promote mental health in Portlaoise.

In Wolfhill, the Glosna Holistic Centre hosts an introduction to creative visualisation, meditation and spiritual healing.

Laughter is the best medicine and using laughter to deal with stress is the focus of an event in the Old Parochial Hall Portlaoise. Bernie Foran, the county librarian will speak about the books available in Laois libraries to cope with stress.

Laois Connects includes a number of invaluable workshops. Josephine Rigney, Suicide Awarness Officer, will deliver Safetalk suicide alert skills programmes to help identify people with suicidal thoughts. The workshops take place in Rathdowney, Abbeyleix.

The Suicide or Survive (SOS) group host Wellness Workshop to provide people with practical tips and strategies to help people take responsibility for their mental health in Mountmellick,

Coping with stress is the focus of a talk in Portlaoise Parish Centre by John Bannon, Cognitive Behavioural Therapist with the HSE. Finola Colgan of Mental Health Ireland will give a workshop in Portlaoise’s Respond Centre and will speak on building resilience in Portarlington.

The Shine organisation will run a workshop on facing challenges in Borris-in-Ossory. John Farren of GROW will speak at an event which will give an introduction to Wellness Recovery Action Planning organised by the Community Mental Health Awareness Staff in Portlaoise.

For further information, contact Honor Deevy, Community & Enterprise, Laois County Council. 057 8674337/8 e: Web