A man who struggled with depression and addiction says that learning to sail helped him navigate through a dark and difficult time.
Colin Healy, a co-founder of the Sailing Into Wellness project, gave his message of hope last night ahead of the launch of Cork’s first Mental Health and Wellbeing Festival, which runs right through October to raise awareness of the supports and services that are available for people struggling with mental health issues.
Mr Healy said: “I had fought a personal battle with depression and addiction most of my adult life and spent time in psychiatric hospitals and rehab.
"I spent 10 years on anti-depression medication until I finally figured out that it wasn’t working for me.
"Sailing was the most transformative experience I had ever experienced.
"The teamwork, communication, resilience and leadership skills you develop through the experiential learning of sailing are at the same time healing.
"These skills boost your self confidence and self esteem and this in turn improves mental health and wellbeing. You are healing in a natural, holistic and physical way.”
Mr Healy will be at the Port of Cork today with the historic Ilen sailing vessel which is now used on Sailing Into Wellness recovery programmes.
Built in Baltimore in 1926, and delivered to the Falkland Islands where she served for more than 70 years, she was recently restored.
Mr Healy said they now use Ilen to take people out of their comfort zone: “Being on a sailboat, big or small, enables them to connect with themselves in a way that challenges their fears.
"Because that’s what we have to overcome to help navigate our way out of poor mental health or addiction, fear. A fear of life, a fear of the unknown."
The Mental Health and Wellbeing Festival starts today with a free event in City Hall from 11am-2pm showcasing more than 45 groups who provide mental health and wellbeing supports, services or activities, including the Cork Sports Partnership, the Health Action Zone, Samaritans, ISPCC and Pieta House.
An initiative of Connecting for Life Cork - the inter-agency suicide and self-harm reduction plan for the city and county, led by the HSE - it will feature up to 100 events across the city and county during the month.
Sinead Glennon, head of mental health services with Cork Kerry Community Healthcare, said she hopes the event will raise awareness of what supports are available: “We want to promote the concepts of hope and recovery, as well as reminding ourselves that we all need to care for our mental health."
Priscilla Lynch, head of Health and Wellbeing with Cork Kerry Community Health Services, said she hopes the events will give people the information they need to make positive changes to improve their physical and mental health.
Martin Ryan, the HSE's suicide prevention resource officer in the region, said it’s important that everyone is aware of the supports available to them in the community and he encouraged people to attend today's showcase, or to check out some of the events over the coming weeks: "It is really important that we can signpost people to relevant services, matching the right service with their need."