GROW's Step 2: We took our courage in our hands and asked for help.
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February 2016 GROW in Ireland Newsletter

One Step, Two Step: An Extract from Soul Survivors

This article is an edited extract from GROW’s Soul Survivors 3 book by GROW Patron, John Lonergan, former Governor of Mountjoy Prison.

I have been asked to comment on Steps One and Two in terms of their importance on the road to recovery for those who have mental health problems. Many years ago, a young woman who was in prison in Mountjoy contributed to a book called “The Junk Yard”, edited by Marsha Hunt. She wrote this short preamble to her article “I alone must do it, but I cannot do it alone”. Ever since I have totally believed in this philosophy. Ultimately, we must all take personal responsibility for our own lives, there is no other way or option. But, at the same time, most of us are not capable of doing it all on our own, we all need help, support and, above all, encouragement at various stages and times throughout our lives. I have always believed that the big challenge for all those working with people who have personal struggles in their lives is to help and support them to a stage where they themselves recognise their own strengths and limitations. Incidentally, I much prefer to use the word ‘limitations’ when referring to our human shortcomings rather than ‘weaknesses’.

© Ayzek09 |

Telling another person that he/she has a problem is being judgemental, and the last thing we should ever do is to be judgemental. For me the whole process is about helping, supporting and encouraging the individual to make the journey from a position of unawareness, or insecurity, or hopelessness or denial, to a place where the person is confident, capable and secure enough to be able to reach out and ask for help. I believe that this is by far the most important stage in the recovery journey and it often requires great patience and tolerance by befrienders and counsellors as this process can be slow and frustrating. Over the years, numerous prisoners told me that many people, family members, parents, friends and professionals told them that they had problems and that they needed help but nothing meaningful happened until they came to that conclusion themselves. In my opinion, both Steps One and Two are linked and overlap.

It can take enormous courage to admit and to acknowledge “I have a problem” and it often requires the help, support and encouragement of others. It is my belief and experience that this is the most difficult and crucial stage because once we have overcome ourselves as it were, we are on the road to recovery. It also takes great personal courage to move to Step Two and ask for help. To move to this stage is much easier if a foundation of trust is in place and, for me, this is a vital requirement. The individual must feel totally secure and confident that he/she can fully trust the person or people they are working with and confiding in. Anything less than certainty in this area will greatly inhibit meaningful progress.

[Read full article...]

6 Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

 James Foley, from Base2Digital, Dublin, sent in this information to us and we thought it was appropriate, given the time of year.

It is a good idea to consult with your GP before taking up vigorous exercise. In the UK (NHS) GPs can actually prescribe exercise to their patients, which is helping to reduce the NHS drugs bill, and there have been similar pilot initiatives in Ireland, such as the GP Exercise Referral Programme. Health Minister Leo Varadkar recently launched Ireland’s first ever National Physical Activity Plan - further information is available on the Healthy Ireland website or check out their introductory video.

No doubt those watching and following RTE’s Operation Transformation series have heard about the parkrun phenomenon (which is also supported by Healthy Ireland)? This has seen an explosion in numbers since the start of the year, so what better way to start 2016 than to get register for your local parkrun and get involved. Community based initiatives like parkrun offer many other social benefits (reduced isolation; volunteer opportunities; confidence building etc.).

The Australian Black Dog Institute have many useful leaflets and publications on this topic and many other articles can be found on-line, e.g. Beating Depression with Exercise. Many ideas and useful tips to get you motivated can be found on the Get Ireland Active website.

[Read full article...]

Head of Service User, Family Member & Carer Engagement Appointed

We were delighted to hear that Liam Hennessy has been appointed as Head of Service User, Family Member and Carer Engagement in the Mental Health Division.  He officially starts on 22nd of February and will have responsibility to lead out on the recommendations of the Service User, Family Member and Carer Reference Group. Liam is Co Chair of the REFOCUS Committee with the College of Psychiatrists in Ireland. This Committee is made up of service users and family members who work with the College to help improve the training of Psychiatrists in Ireland.  GROWers might recall Dr. Anne Jeffers (co-ordinator of the REFOCUS group) and Brian McNulty (member), who both spoke at last year's GROW AGM & National Weekend in Athlone.

For further information please visit

News from the Midlands

We are delighted to announce that the Midlands Regional Team has a new chairman, Michael Sheahan, from Mullingar. We wish Michael every success in his new role.

GROW Midland Region will run a Community Education Programme in St Patrick’s Hall, Delvin, Co Westmeath on Mondays from 7:30pm to 9:30pm from 29th February to 21st March inclusive.

A Community Education Programme will also be given in Mountmellick Development Association, Irishtown, Mountmellick, Co Laois from 7:30pm to 9:30pm on Mondays from 4th April to 25th April inclusive. The title of the course is “Understanding and Minding Your mental Health”.

Please see our website for full details and outline.

GROW congratulates Console on the opening of their new centre in Athlone which was recently opened by Console CEO Paul Kelly and TV3 Presenter, Elaine Crowley.

GROW Helping People Connect for Life

GROW's Elllen Ryle and Jaye O'Sullivan with Ministers Lynch and Howlin.
Connecting for Life Wexford is the new suicide prevention and self-harm plan for County Wexford. It was developed by the HSE in co-operation with other organisations and is in line with national strategy. Connecting for Life Wexford follows on from the country’s first such county wide plan, launched in 2004 under the Wexford County Development Board. Kathleen Lynch, minister for Mental Health, spoke at the event:

“Looking after our mental health is a cornerstone of improving the health of our people. It is as important as physical health. Throughout the health services, here in Co. Wexford and the South East being a very good example, we have been putting the structures in place to try to ensure that people get the right type of mental health treatment in the right place and above all at the right time. We have also developed services in primary care – such as here in Wexford Town – for those who have needs, and we are continuing to develop care for those who are acutely unwell. It’s all connected and it all counts.”

A key theme of the launch was about the importance of linking back into our community. With the closure of many post offices, a decline in meeting our neighbours, and our busier lifestyles leaves us less time for relaxing and having time to do the things we enjoy. More than ever many people are living isolated lives, which can have a direct impact on our mental health. The importance of connecting with people, and feeling part of society is paramount to our mental health. We need to get back to the basics, of visiting people and “connecting in life”.

Ellen Ryle from GROW states how this is an integral part of GROW’s work. We support people to make small changes in their lives. Connecting with people is a good for us and reinforces that GROW are already delivering a service that has been highlighted in the “Connecting for life” document.
[Read full article...]

Mind Ur Health in Limerick

For the past two years, GROW has attended the Mind Ur Health Expo in Limerick city. This event is organised by Anna Gibson-Steel, founder of the Holistic Centre of Excellence, based in Glenstal Abbey, Murroe, Co. Limerick.

The 2016 event takes place on Sunday 13th March 12-6pm in the Strand Hotel, Limerick, and GROW is delighted to once again be part of this innovative event to promote well being.

For a flavour of what is likely to be on offer this year, check out the Irish TV programme from last year in which both GROW and the HSE #LittleThings campaign features.

Upcoming Event in the West

Arthritis Ireland are hosting a talk on Friday 5th February in the Hotel Westport. Doors open at 6:30pm for a 7:30pm start. Free admission, all welcome.

Prof Gerry Wilson is delivering the key information talk: Working on a Cure: Plans for life changing research in Rheumatology in Ireland. Also speaking will be Prof. Frank Barry and Prof. John Carey.

GROW will have an information stand at this event, so drop by and find out more.

Mental Health & Wellbeing Fair in Cork City

Next Saturday 6th February, St. Patrick's Mental Health Services is hosting the Mental Health & Wellbeing Fair in the Clarion Hotel, Cork, 11am-4pm (free event, but registration is recommended). GROW is one of a number of organisations exhibiting as this event. Speakers include Minister Kathleen Lynch, TD, St Patrick’s CEO Paul Gilligan and blogger FacesByGrace, who is sharing her story of overcoming depression and anxiety.  So if you are near Cork next weekend, be sure to drop in.


Anyone’s Brother – a vigil by candlelight for Caoilte

No doubt anyone reading the news during January would have come upon the tragic story of Caoilte O Brion. He went missing on 29th December and was found dead in the Liffey on 2nd January. Caoilte suffered from mental health problems for some years years and he also drank heavily - so he had what is called a ‘dual diagnosis‘ - which made accessing mental health services problematic. Colin, a friend of Caoilte, sent us this interesting article on "diagnosis" in general.  Niall Breslin (Bressie) wrote about it on his Lust for Life website and also spoke about the story on TV3's IrelandAM show on 15th January. Bressie also delivered a powerful talk about mental health and wellbeing at a meeting of the Oireachtas health committee in which he spoke about Caoilte's case.

Some of his friends and family have taken it upon themselves to initiate a campaign in order to ensure that change happens and that this type of preventable death might be avoided in the future. To this end, there is a silent candlelight vigil planned for Thursday 11th February at 7pm in Kildare Street, Dublin.  They also hope to make an appearance on RTE's Late Late Show on Friday 19th February.

Preparing for #GE16 #OurStateOfMind

As we head towards a General Election during February, most people will have candidates and canvassers calling to the door.  This is a perfect opportunity to put Mental Health at the top of the agenda - by asking questions about policy and plans and ensuring that your local candidates appreciate the importance of mental health and wellbeing.  Please check out the Mental Health Reform website for tips and material to help you in this task! They also have a blog updating readers on the mental health highlights from some of the party manifestos.

Mental Health Reform are also recruiting two staff for interesting communications and campaign related work. Application deadline 12th February.

2015 in Numbers

We are very proud in GROW that within one month of year end we have full 2015 group evaluation statistics available for use and to demonstrate the value of our work. This could not happen without the dedication of many people within the organisation: The group recorders (volunteer role) who tirelessly collect and record anonymous group stats week in week out; our area co-ordinators who help in this process and ensure that all forms get back to our regional offices; our regional administrators who enter the data into Survey Monkey and Aisling Cassin, the administrator who prepares our quarterly reports and who follows up to ensure that all data is entered.

[Further information...]

Odds and Ends

We'll finish up with a few articles and upcoming events of interest: -
  • Mental Health Ireland have a "Dignity Series" running on their website. The first blog features Kevin who shares what helped him, including GROW.
  • Mental Health Ireland's new-look website also features a useful events listing which is worth checking out from time to time.
  • StateOfMind Ireland are hosting a (free) conference in the Titanic Centre, Belfast, on Thursday 18th February. This is being funded by the Donal Walsh #LiveLife Foundation and will be exploring how to inspire hope and resilience via participation in sporting, recreational and cultural activities.
  • The Irish National Conference on Eating Disorders take place in St. Patrick's University Hospital on Saturday 27th February.
  • St. Patrick's Mental Health Services have teamed up with Pieta House to hold a conference on Self Harm in Dublin on Monday 29th February.Tickets from €25 to €50.
  • There are plans to hold a GROW Organisational Forum, also in Athlone, from Friday 8th April to Sunday 10th AprilRegional Team members nationwide should save the date.
  • Many GROWers participated in the Pieta House Darkness into Light Walk and this year that takes place on Saturday 7th May, 100+ venues nationwide.
  • The Wheel's 2016 AGM, Dinner & Annual Conference has now been confirmed for 24 & 25 May.
  • GROWers please note that the 2016 National Weekend and AGM is taking place in Athlone from Friday 30th Sept to Sunday 1st October, so be sure to save the date.
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