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July 2015 GROW in Ireland Newsletter

Discussion on Sleep

Step 7 of GROW’s 12 Step Program is “we took care and control of our bodies”. This paper from the Kilkenny Writer’s Group explores the topic of Sleep. It quickly became obvious in this discussion that there was no consensus regarding ‘what works’. Perhaps our sleeping patterns are very individual like our fingerprint. However unlike our fingerprint the pattern changes over time. For example young people may have the energy to party all night, yet manage to stumble out of bed for work the next morning – this is rarely feasible (or advisable) when we get older. Parents of babies will naturally sleep with a sense of heightened alertness – waking up to slightest sound. As we get older we may need less sleep at night, but be inclined to nap during the day. Some people are naturally ‘night-owls’ or ‘morning larks’. However a tendency towards being anti-social can make us become ‘night-owls’ – a bad habit we need to grow out of.
Exercising and Counting Sheep to help with sleep?
Pat: I went through a difficult 12 month phase in my life, where sleep was a huge issue. I was tossing and turning, listening to the radio, getting up, trying sleeping tablets – nothing seemed to work. Eventually I did some research on the internet and the following tips helped me greatly: (a) avoid caffeine/alcohol/food at night-time; (b) recognise that we can function for many weeks on 1-2 hours sleep.
Functioning on little sleep is not enjoyable – but it is possible. Also insomniacs usually get more sleep than they think. Naturally they will remember the 7 hours they lay awake in bed. But equally naturally they will forget the 30-60 minute sleeping episodes that were mixed into the sleeplessness. These short sleeping episodes enable us to carry on.

Amy: When I shared this issue with a therapist I was told: ‘you attend a 12-Step Program, why not hand it over to God?’ Initially I was angry with this advice, but now I realise that it works. Sleep is a gift. I can’t make it happen. But if I hand control over to my higher power it is usually (not always) gifted to me. Not having to be in control and handing over takes away the stress – making it easier to sleep. What also helps is to write a list of the issues that trouble me and promise myself that I will face them in the morning, after I’ve slept. If someone upsets me I try to remember all the good people in my life. Sometimes (this is difficult) I will try to find something good in the person that bugs me, and hope that I will be able to connect with their goodness.

Ann: When I was younger I sometimes worked 7 night-shifts in a row. This used mess up my circadian rhythm. Experience has taught me that working 3-4 nights in a row is okay, but anything more will disrupt my sleep. As I get older my body has become more sensitive, so I need to say ‘no’ to extra night-shifts. Saying ‘no’ can sometimes by necessary to protect our physical and mental health. Another aid in dealing with sleeplessness is to read something short and uplifting – GROW’s Blue Book, the Bible, or any book that has a soothing message, making it easier for me to drop back asleep.

Mark: My sleeping pattern has always been erratic, due to manic depression. When I’m down it’s easy to get 8-9 hours sleep. When I’m manic it’s a struggle to get 3-5 hours. I try to avoid napping during the day, as this makes it harder to sleep at night. If I sense I’ll get little sleep I will delay going to bed till around 1am. Then once I go to bed I make myself stay there, listening to music or the radio. Usually such distractions help me fall asleep. But even if I’m awake all night, listening to the radio means I’m not so bothered by my negative thoughts. GROW has taught me to get better at ignoring such thoughts.

Mary: It’s funny – I deal with my manic depression differently to Mark. I find when I’m manic the odd cat-nap during the day helps take the edge off my mania, making it easier to sleep at night. Also I see no point in staying in bed tossing and turning. Sometimes I’ll get up and have a hot chocolate, read a book for a while and – when I feel tired enough to sleep – go back to bed. In the long run it all balances out.

The discussion concluded with GROWers sharing ideas about what helps them deal with sleeping difficulties. Read more...

Mental Health Reform - Vision for Change 9 Years on?

A Vision for Change was adopted in 2006 and was developed as a framework for building and fostering positive mental health across the entire community and for providing accessible, community-based, specialist services for people with mental illness.  Mental Health Reform have recently published a detailed analysis of progress to date.  This report is a "must read" for those involved in provision of mental health services in Ireland.

Some of the report's conclusions include: -
  • Although there has been a lot of activity and progress, the "vision" is someway off being achieved.
  • Primary care mental health services remain under-resourced and uncoordinated with mental health services.
  • People with mental health difficulties continue to face significant social exclusion, which has no doubt been exacerbated by the economic crisis.
  • Implementation continues to be hindered by shortfalls in staffing, which also puts huge pressure and stress on existing staff working in the sector.
  • There has been no information system that can report on inputs, outputs and outcomes of mental health service delivery.
  • The economic crisis has adversely affected all government services, but seem to have impacted mental health services disproportionately. In January 2015 staffing levels were 11% below those of 2008, rather than the increase envisaged.
  • That said, many of the changes sought by people who use mental health services and their family supporters do not cost money – to be listened to, to be treated with respect, to have a say in one’s own treatment.
  • The Expert Group said A Vision for Change needed to be implemented as a “complete plan” - i.e. an integrated plan with joined up thinking.
From a GROW perspective, it is worth noting that in 2006, 72% of all admissions to psychiatric wards were re-admissions, which reduced marginally to 67% in 2013.  A sure way to alleviate pressure on A&E departments and acute units would be to reduce the re-admission rate by making sure that those discharged from acute units are well equipped with the tools and support networks in place prior to discharge.

It seems not a week goes by without a new story in the media about someone's unsatisfactory encounter with the mental health services. E.g. most recently in Galway and Limerick. What is the answer?

News from the South East Region

The Gorey, Arklow and Tullow groups enjoyed their summer outing to the Lavender Farm in Inch, Co. Wexford. A good reminder to all GROWers to make the most of the summer to engage in wholesome outdoor 12th Step activities.  Former GROW National Co-ordinator, Dr. Mike Watts, did a series on RTE's Living Word many years ago. Josie, a great story teller from Kilkenny, featured on A Living Word last week - if you missed it, you can listen to the podcasts here.

News from the Midlands

The Leadership Course is now well under way in Longford where 6 local members are taking part.  The group meets every two weeks in a room provided by the National Learning Network in the town, and it is hoped to complete the course by late July.  An introduction to the course has also been given to members in the Tullamore area.  This group undertaking the course will meet in the GROW Office.
The annual summer outing in the Midlands will take place on Tuesday 21st July.  The group will visit  Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, Co. Clare, with lunch in the local hotel.  Should the weather be inclement alternative arrangements are available.  Members are looking forward to the outing.

GROW Regional Team members from around the country met in Portlaoise during June to discuss issues, strategy and ideas. Hopefully we will explore some of these ideas in the next issue of the newsletter. Watch this space!

News from the Midwestern Region

GROWers in the the region are gearing up for the Colour Run which takes place in Clarisford Park, Killaloe, on Saturday 15th August. The organiser, Ciara McCullough, has once again confirmed that GROW will be one of the charities to benefit from this fabulous event.  This year, the event forms part of the Festival of Happiness which also includes Ireland's first Foam Run, along with stands for food, alternative therapies and music from Voice of Ireland contestant Niall O'Halloran.

There was an element of sadness and sorrow during June with the loss of one popular GROW member, Gareth, and his obituary featured in the Limerick Post. Many GROWers came together to attend a poignant memorial service in Griffins Funeral Home. Gareth received a medal for bravery from Queen Elizabeth in 1990 in recognition of his bravery on the night of the terrible Piper Alpha oil rig disaster of 1988 in which 167 souls perished.

In response to the recent wave of suicides in Limerick, a group has formed to look at opening a drop-in centre in the community. They are holding a fundraising Fancy Dress walk on Sunday 26th July at 9pm, from Lady of Lourdes Church, Ballinacurra Weston.

Phone, Text, Email, Skype of IM a Friend?

GROW was founded in the 1950′s, some 100 years after the first telephone came into existence, so it is no surprise that the GROW program makes reference to telephones (e.g. a friend is as near as the nearest phone).  GROW first came to Ireland in the late 1960′s, some 20 years before the World Wide Web came into being and more than 20 years before the first ever text message was sent.  There has been phenomenal growth in communication technology in the past 40 years and this has impacted all our lives. The key to using technology to our (mental health) advantage is to control how we use it and not let it control us – and control is one of our Foundations of Maturity (the others being understanding, acceptance, confidence and love). As it says in the Blue Book, ‘All problems are ultimately problems of understanding and due regulation or control’.

At our National Weekend and AGM last year, a GROWer survey was conducted which revealed that around 98% of GROWers had both an email account and a mobile phone and around 50% were on Facebook. Bearing this in mind, let’s take a look at how we, as GROWers, can integrate technology into our lives and our GROW Program (especially 12th Step activities). Image courtesy of Daniel St.Pierre at

Find out more about texting, emailing and using Facebook and Skype...

Billie the Wonder Dog - Dory

In the spirit of Step 7 and to encourage us to get out for that bit of exercise this summer, we thank Dory from Australia who has give us permission to publish this poem. Enjoy!

I have a dog, her name is Bill, 
I work her hard, she loves me still. 
Each day at dawn we love to ride, 
My bike and me and Bill beside. 
We wheel and run up hill and track, 
Down the beach we go and back. 
On weekends we stop to swim, but 
Bill fears the waves and won’t go in. 
She wallows in the shadows, though, 
Where the waves are calm and low. 
I’m loving Bill, she’s loving me, 
as we cruise along beside the sea. 

Though Billie lost a leg somewhere, 
She runs on three and doesn’t care. 
People stop and say, “Poor Pet, 
it must be hard without that leg.” 
I think the same at times, but Billie 
may have other thoughts entirely 
when I look down at her with pity. 
I suspect her thoughts may be 
“Poor girl”, as she looks clear-eyed 
back at me, 
“She’s got just two legs, I’ve got three.”


Connecting for Life - Suicide Prevention Strategy

The government recently launched Connecting for Life, the new national strategic framework to reduce suicide 2015-2020. An article on the describes the launch and summarises the strategy.

Connecting for Life covers the next 5 years and is mainly focused on reducing the rates of suicide and self-harm nationally and amongst specific priority groups. The minimum overall objective is a 10% reduction in suicide rates by 2020.

Gerry Raleigh, Director of the National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP) summed up the strategy: “No single agency, no single government department, no single individual can reduce suicide on their own. Therefore, we must ensure that we work together to achieve our shared and attainable goal for our nation.” Kathleen Lynch echoed the importance of "connecting" and stated that "as part of the suicide strategy, we need to connect with ourselves, our families, our communities and the services that are on offer".

The strategy was also discussed as part of the Vincent Browne Show on TV3 and Carl O'Brien had an interesting piece in the Irish Times about how the strategy hopes to build up resilience and coping skills within the secondary school population.

Odds and Ends

  • GROW in Ireland CEO Michele Kerrigan was on the Perspectives Radio Show, CRY 104 FM, on 24th June - if you missed it, you can listen to the podcast here.
  • Rory Doody Peer Advocate at the Home Focus Team, National Learning Network and West Cork Mental Health Services was talking on the Health Zone about his own journey with mental health (starts at 34 mins in).  Rory describes himself as a "poacher turned gamekeeper" - someone with lived experience of mental health issues who now works in the sector.
  • During National Carer's Week in June, St. Patrick's Mental Health Services launched an Innovative Guide for Carers. The guide highlights how to support a person on their recovery journey and it also gives practical advice for relatives, friends and carers on how they can look after their own mental health.
  • Lionel Richie, who sang "Hello...", was a massive hit at Glastonbury this summer. The folks in Carlow Mental Health Association have come up with an interesting H.e.l.l.o. campaign - great idea - maybe it will catch on nationwide!
  • Finola Colgan, development officer for Mental Health Ireland in the Midlands, has worked closely with the GAA over the years and this has resulted in various initiatives including an information sign with signposts to all the support organisations. Another terrific idea worth replicating nationwide.

Upcoming July Events

  • "Last Friday" coffee mornings again take place on Friday 31st July in the GROW offices in Limerick (33 Henry St) and Cork (34 Grand Parade).
  • There are a number of "Tree of Hope" plantings taking place nationwide during July, Check their Facebook Page for further information.
  • The Samaritans Talk To Us Campaign runs throughout July. Check their website to see if there are events taking place in your area. The Samaritans responded to over 470,000 calls for help last year.
  • Cycle Against Suicide Spin-Off event in Enniscrone, Co. Sligo, Sat 18th July.
  • How about something completely different? 13th July (also Con Keogh's date of birth) sees the start of a (free) 21 day Meditation Experience with Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey.
  • Mad Pride Ireland are having a Family Fun Day in Skibbereen Town Park on Sun 26th July.
  • Comhairle na nOg launched their Lets Go Mental campaign in June and there are events taking place nationwide over the coming months aimed at promoting positive mental health amongst young people.
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