Health awareness grows in Limerick

GROW, the charity which aims to help those suffering with mental health problems, has highlighted the service it provides on the northside with a special coffee morning.

GROW, the charity which aims to help those suffering with mental health problems, has highlighted the service it provides on the northside with a special coffee morning.

The charity runs nine support groups for people suffering from depression, bereavement, and other troubling conditions, across the county.

Based at offices in O’Connell Street, one support group runs each Wednesday night in Cosgrave Park, Moyross.

On Friday, the president of the Irish Association of Suicidiology, local TD Dan Neville joined representatives of the group in the Moyross Community Enterprise Centre to highlight the good work of the charity.

Joe Mulcahy, local spokesman for the charity, said they targeted Moyross, because of its status as a disadvantaged community.

“There are huge mental health issues around this. It is linked mainly to the unemployment side of things. Ultimately though what it boils down to is poverty.”

Launched in the last six months, the northside support group has grown to 12 members.

Ballynanty woman Christine Fitzgerald, who has been involved in the charity since it launched in Limerick in 1986, shared her own story.

She said: “There is no creed, colour or age. Mental health problems can happen to anyone. Any family can be affected by a mental health problem. There is absolutely no shame in it. Nowadays, I do not care who knows about my problem.”

Mr Neville reminded the audience present - which included a transition year group from St Nessan’s secondary school - that a quarter of people in Ireland will have suffered from a mental health illness at some point in their lives.

There are more than 300,000 people in Ireland suffering from depression, he added.

The Co Limerick TD debunked the myth that once you have depression, you are scarred for life, and he also debunked many signals people should look for when dealing with people with depression.

He called for further education to be given to youngsters to reduce the stigma surrounding depression.

“The same criteria for positive physical health should exist with mental health: getting the correct amount of rest, stress management. These types of issues are the ones we should be training people to look at. Young people need to be trained on these issues,” said Mr Neville.

He added: “There is still a real stigma there. When I go canvassing, nobody raises issues around mental health. They will raise a lot of other things: jobs rightly so, the economy, problems at the regional hospital, hip replacements. But if somebody is suffering from a mental illness, or if a child is suffering from a mental illness, they don’t query it. This is because they want to protect their children from the stigma and shame around mental health. The challenge we all have is to promote and do whatever we can to ensure we overcome that.”

Mr Neville said this should not be seen as impossible, given the advances made around other conditions in Ireland.

“If you go back 60 years, nobody would speak about TB. It was stigmatised. Now, people speak about it openly. I remember a time when cancer was the big C. Now, we have management centres, and people speak openly about it,” he explained.

Leona O’Callaghan, who runs the GROW support group in Moyross outlined the trauma she has gone through in her life. She stressed you cannot suffer in silence.

When Leona went to hospital following an episode of self-harming, and was told she was suffering from a mental illness, she said she felt “ashamed” - something she has overcome since.

“I had that stigma - I did not want this. I felt I had let my family down, I felt I had let myself down. I could not understand why I was like this,” she told the audience of around 50 people.

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