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“The phones just kept ringing,” states Noreen Murphy of Lisheens House as she reflects back on the very busy Christmas and New Year period.
The phones she refers to were the calls which people in a mental health crisis over the holiday period made to Lisheens House, a suicide prevention charity with an office in Skibbereen and a quality used furniture shop in Clonakilty. The charity raises funds primarily from the people of Cork and operates entirely without state funding.
Among other activities, Lisheens House delivers QPR suicide prevention training, a simple three-step programme that helps participants to spot the signs of someone who may be contemplating ending their own life and the steps we can take to prevent that from happening. See: www.lisheenshouse.ie /training.
"Once again, over the Christmas holidays, we saw a marked increase in the number of parents calling, people concerned about their teenage children," said Noreen Murphy, who lost her own husband to suicide in 2007.
Noreen added: "For our part, we refer people to counselling with one of our therapists; for others, they just need information and guidance as they are afraid that if they say or do the wrong thing, it will make matters worse, so they end up frozen with fear. This can make matters worse for the person in crisis and, as a result, the whole family is affected."
Because the subject of mental health was shrouded in secrecy for generations, it enabled a whole range of myths, misconceptions and ultimately stigma surround the whole topic. As a result, people are afraid to talk openly about it as they afraid of being judged and so the cycle goes on.
"At Lisheens House, we want to break this very damaging cycle and we can this by informing and educating people so people will realise that mental and physical health are two sides of the same coin; and just like we are not afraid to talk about and ask for help with our physical health, this also has to true of our mental health - you simply can't have one and not the other," said Noreen.
"And the sooner the conversation starts, the less the level of crisis if someone in our family or circle of friends or workmates develops a mental health problem; the more informed we all are, the better and more rational approach we can adopt to get the person the help they need. It will simply take the panic out of an already stressful time."
Lisheens House is now delivering a number of talks on dealing with mental health crises. These talks will help strip away the stigma that has surrounded Mental Health for far too long. The talks will help demystify and explain it, in plain and simple language, what we as laypeople can do, the very important first steps which are vital in achieving the best outcome and where to refer the person in crisis to so they can get the professional help they need.
"All of this may seem very obvious and simplistic," added Noreen, "but because of generations of taboo and falsehoods, people are still afraid and unsure what to do, fearing they will make things worse and panic sets in.
"The feedback that we have received from the recent series of talks that we have given has shown us that people really are so relieved to talk, and the fear they felt dissipates once the whole subject is teased out and spoken about in simple terms."
Our society has changed beyond all recognition in the last few years. The Ireland of today is unrecognisable from that of ten years ago. The part social media plays in all our lives both young and old is huge and we are still playing catch up in trying to measure the effects both positive and negative it is having on our lives.
One thing for sure is that social media is here to stay. We have to accept that and learn to deal with the challenges that it presents. Again this is a huge issue for parents today.
Here are some of the key questions parents must ask themselves around social media:
This has become a huge part of parenting and a dilemma that confronts parents on a daily basis.
Because of the stresses and strains that modern-day life offers up to us, trying to leave these behind us at the door as we head into our place of work each day is almost impossible and many employers now realise that performance and productivity are adversely affected by employees worrying about the problems at home.
By introducing simple support methods into the workplace it reassures employees that they are valued by their employer and that their employer realises we live in a challenging time and supports are in place to help them through. Lisheens House now offers a range of supports to companies of all sizes that will help reassure staff, reduce absenteeism and increase productivity.
No matter what the problem, the more informed and the better understanding we have of the subject, the better equipped we are to deal with it - and mental health is no different.
If you are interested in any of the above talks or workplace assistance programmes, please email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call Mick on 085 8426946.
As the people at Lisheens House receive no state funding, they are still hugely dependent on the resale of donated furniture to fund their free counselling and training services.
Their stocks have been somewhat depleted after the busy Christmas period, and so they desperately need your unwanted furniture and household items, the proceeds of which will go directly to funding their free services, so someone in crisis in Cork will benefit directly from your donated goods.
"It’s a real community effort," added Noreen. "It’s the spirit this country was built on, people looking out for each other, and nobody does that better than the people of Cork. Quite simply, without their support, the charity I that found on the back of my own family's tragedy would not exist."
Please call 086 4066348 if you have any furniture or household items you wish to donate or fill out the form on: www.lisheenshouse.ie.
There is no magic wand to fix the problems so many families find themselves in today's fast-moving world, but the more information we can get out there into communities throughout Cork, the more empowered people will become. This is how we will realise that everyone has a part to play in addressing the mental health crisis. A community effort, one conversation at a time.
Community Mental Health Matters