In this first newsletter of 2015, we look back at the highlights of 2014 and once again explore Step 1 of the GROW Program.
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January 2015 GROW in Ireland Newsletter

Lost and in need of direction?

Step 1 of GROW’s 12 Step Program of recovery is ‘We admitted we had lost our way and needed direction’, or as it says in the original Blue Book, ‘We admitted we were inadequate or maladjusted to life.’  The two leadership papers below from the Kilkenny Writing Group explore the challenge of change.

Image courtesy of Ventrilock at

Learning to admit we are part of the problem.

What does the first step mean, no matter which way it is phrased? Basically, in my opinion, it means beginning to consider the possibility that all the problems we are experiencing may be caused by our own attitude to life. It means that we might begin to acknowledge the problem could lie with us: in our thinking both about ourselves and about others. GROW is about change and unless we are willing to change our point of view, our perspective on things, we cannot progress from where we’re at. It’s like peace talks: if we are not willing to admit that we are part of the problem and to listen to the other, there is no way forward.

The better able we are to try and understand “the other” point of view, the more we are willing to “see ourselves as others see us”, the more hope there is for us of being able to change. The question is whether we are able to admit that we have faults (like everyone else) and whether we are willing and able to learn and do something about them. It’s not as easy as it sounds, especially if we are living in a world governed by our feelings and imagination. But it is possible to change if we are willing to learn.

Learning to be real and truthful.

Inadequate? What makes me inadequate? My reliance on negative thoughts and feelings to guide my actions. My dependence on others to act on my behalf. My fears. My loneliness. My bouts of depression.

Don’t these things make me human? To be human is to be imperfect. Therefore how can I deny that these inadequacies are part of me, part of my humanity? Regarding these inadequacies as something that affects ‘us’ and not them’ can be the greatest mistake. We need to avoid the trap of wishing to aspire to the apparently perfect standards of others and seeing someone else’s life as worthy of greater merit than our own. Instead GROW encourages us to see ‘the ordinary human being in them – the one struggling to relate to life as a whole.’

Accepting our inadequacies is generally a painful, lonely and tormented journey. At the end of the road, where have I left to go? GROW. From the depths of our soul we find the courage to make an admission. To admit I am inadequate and need to find direction in my life. The step from knowing and accepting this inwardly to admitting it openly to ourselves and those around us is a Giant Step to take. This admission does not make me weak or vulnerable. It makes me real and truthful. Remember we are only as sick as our secrets.

Then at the end of that sad and lonely road, as though to an old building in need of renovation, you start chipping away at a layer of showy façade, to find the beauty of natural stone beneath – real, solid, where substance lies. With some tender, loving care; the help of others and a steely determination to succeed at this challenge – it will stand tall in all its glory.

Good News from the Mid West Region

Teri Brandon, from Co. Clare, is the 2015 Ms. Ennis for Ireland Pageants. She suffers from bipolar disorder and plans to spend 2015 advocating for and spreading awareness about mental health. We are delighted that she has selected to partner up with GROW "as they are a great organisation, with their emphasis on peer support and recovery".  Teri occasionally writes for and you can follow her @teripatricia. Welcome aboard Teri!

GROW was also delighted to be nominated for Mile #4 in the 2015 Great Limerick Run as part of the 26 Miles for 26 Heroes initiative and there is a meeting about this on Sat 24th Jan @ 10am (venue to be confirmed).

2014 - GROWing to Maturity?

At this time of the year, before diving into the challenges of 2015, it is worth spending a few moments looking back and reflecting on the successes of 2014, and thanking all those who make it happen – staff, volunteers, GROWers and funding agencies, especially the HSE.  The backbone of GROW’s work involves facilitating the GROW 12 Step Recovery Program and to that end, 4,500 x 2 hour peer support meetings took place serving over 26,000 attendees throughout Ireland.

During 2014 there were over 1,500 calls to the GROW Infoline (1890-474-474) and a 100% increase in the number of our Facebook Page Likes, from 3,200 in Jan to 6,900 by year end.  There was a similar 100% growth rate in subscribers to our newsletter. The GROW website had 140,000 page views from 40,000 sessions or 28,000 different users.  For a full review of the year, check out our monthly newsletter archive, but here are a few selected highlights.

2014 kicked off with a splash in Doe, Co. Donegal, with a New Year’s Day swim in aid of GROW and later in January GROW attended the inaugural Cycle Against Suicide Student Leaders Congress.

February saw the first of the Soul Survivor 3 book launches and this was preceded by a Mike Watts interview on RTE’s John Murray Show – which caused a huge spike in visits to the website. Gertrude Howley spoke alongside Conor Cusack at a very successful Mental Health Conference in Dungarvan and GROWers, including Mackey, from the Mid-West participated in the Nenagh GAA Healthy Club talk where Conor was a guest speaker. GROW also had information stands at the Mind Ur Health expo in Limerick and at NUIG. The highlight of February was winning the Mt Juliet car valued at €12,000 and the South East region kindly went on to sponsor the production of a batch of GROW running and cycling tops – just prior to retirement of long serving South East administrator, Eileen Watson.

During March Gertrude and her troops were out with a huge GROW banner in the Dungarvan St. Patrick’s Day Parade whilst in Galway there was another Soul Survivors 3 book launch, with poet Rita-Ann Higgins as special guest.  Paddy McGowan (Service User Engagement, HSE) toured the country conducting “listening” meetings (attended by many GROWers) and that has culminated in the recent formation of a representative Reference Group for Service User, Family Members and Carer Engagement.

Regional Weekends are an important part of the GROW calendar – and you can get a flavour of what happens at these weekends by reading about the Mid WesternWestern and Southern region weekends.

The Green Ribbon month of May is fast becoming a huge factor in Mental Health stigma reduction and GROW was involved in many events nationwide, including the 2nd Cycle Against Suicide and Eoin Colfer’s Holy Mary play. During the month Derek Mahon also stood on top of the world and GROW CEO, Michele Kerriganspoke at length with Dil Wickremasinghe on Newstalk’s Global Village Show. Michele and John Rice also got the opportunity to chat to Sue Nunn on her KCLR Show.

During the summer months, GROWers and staff participated in many charity sporting events, including the Great Limerick Run, Flora Dublin Women’s Mini-Marathon and the Race2Glory (Mayo), making good use of the new running and cycling tops. And as summer faded to a fine autumn, See Change ambassador, Ciara McCullough, organised a fantastic Killaloe Colour Run in September, with all proceeds to GROW.

The National Weekend and AGM, held in Galway at the end of September, was no doubt one of the big highlights of the year. Speakers included Dil Wickremasinghe (Newstalk FM), Michael Ryan (ARI), Rita-Ann Higgins (Poet) and Fiona Kennedy (Sunny Spells & Scattered Showers blogger). The weekend saw the launch of the 2013 Annual Report and an in-depth GROWer Survey was also conducted which revealed some positive outcomes, such as 75% surveyed reported that their mental health had “improved greatly” since first attending GROW and 67% indicated that their requirement for medication had either reduced (44%) or ceased (21%).

Mental Health Week 2014 in October was a huge success all over the country and GROW collaborated with other organisations to promote positive mental health. There were further book launches in Portlaoise and Limerick along with some good publicity with the SMRC Urban Run, Dil’s live broadcast from Carlow’s Mensana Fest and the launch of a joint GROW/Pieta House fundraising CD. In addition, GROW launched a number of short videos on You Tube and also commenced a 6 month GP leaflet campaign. This was followed in November with a presence at the National Association of General Practitioners AGM in Limerick and some national press releases highlighting the success of self-help groups.

During the year GROW held Community Education (aka Gatekeeper) courses in many locations, including Clonmel (where GROW Patron, John Lonergan, gave a talk) and Virginia, Co. Cavan (where over 80 turned up one night). Towards year end, the North East region learned that long serving Area Co-ordinator,  Roseanna McCabe, would not be returning to work. However the region received good news financially as the North Meath Vintage Club nominated GROW North East as their charity for 2014 and both Ryanair and the Virginia Pumpkin Festival Committee also gave generous donations to the region.

Sadly 2014 also saw the passing of former GROW Area Coordinator, Aideen Lovett, who gave so much to GROW over many years. Aideen’s story is a true example of leadership within GROW. Let us hope that 2015 will invoke the spirit of Leadership within GROW.  As Rosalynn Carter (wife of US President Jimmy Carter) once stated: ‘A Leader takes people where they want to go. A Great Leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.’

Upcoming Events

  • First Fortnight is a charity-based organisation with the express aim of challenging mental health prejudice through the creative art. They accomplish this by facilitating a vast range of events which take place, mainly, in the first fortnight of each year.
  • Patrick's Day, the award winning movie which touches on many aspects of mental health, is due to be released in Irish cinemas on 6th February.

Thank You and Happy New Year

We would like to thank all those who contributed to this newsletter during 2014 and in 2015 we look forward to receiving contributions from GROWers in all corners of Ireland. A special word of thanks to John Rice in Kilkenny.

GROWth is painful, but permanently rewarding!
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