‘A Prescription for Healthier Rural Communities’

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North Donegal Community Network (NDCN) hosted an Event to promote positive health of rural families & farming communities in the Ozanam Centre, Dunfanaghy. County Donegal on 16th April 2013. Event funded by Donegal Local Development Company (DLDC) under the Local & Community Development Programme. DLDC Board Director & NDCN Secretary Martin Mc Bride said ‘NDCN was established to support Community sector in northwest Donegal to enhance the socio-economic, cultural & social life of people & to promote social inclusion of those isolated & deprived. N D C N was an area of economic stagnation & inadequate infrastructure & a vibrant Community Network was needed to augment the work of State Agencies to promote regeneration. NDCN had identified that addiction, mental health, suicide, etc. were more important than ever within rural communities with the recession, austerity, Household charges, etc. putting

NDCN Committee & Event Speakers
NDCN Committee & Event Speakers

more pressure on people than ever before.’  The Event brought speakers from community & statutory Organizations that provide guidance to people & was the latest in a series of NDCN Information Events including Women’s Health, Family Carers, etc. Margaret Healy (national Chairperson of the IFA’s Farm Families & Social Affairs Committee) said farmers face many challenges – isolation, uncertain prices, environmental regulations, unpredictable weather, long working hours, shortage of cattle fodder, etc.  It was important to learn to manage stress. Stress can increase the risk of farm accidents, as people may not focus on the task. The I F A has a leaflet “let’s Talk, Dealing with Stress” to explain causes of stress & how to cope with it. Margaret said the IFA Farm Families Committee had linked with Pieta House, a Suicide Crisis Centre to provide training for Committee members & the IFA were partners in SEECHANGE an Initiative of over 70 Organizations working to end the stigma of mental health. Margaret welcomed that NDCN had prioritised mental health as a theme – given the reluctance of people to talk about the issue within rural areas. Regarding Farm Safety, Margaret said there were 22 fatal accidents on Irish farms in 2012. Half were in the 65 years + age group. A free IFA DVD aimed @ farmers in this age group was available free from local IFA Offices. Machinery & livestock was main cause of farm accidents. Maria Whelan (GROW, an Organization to support the recovery of people who have experienced Breakdown) spoke on the confidential & supportive services offered. The Support Model adopted by GROW works on Group based peer support that aims to empower & activate people who have shared experiences whilst providing a friendship & support network for people who have experienced breakdown. Maria spoke about the origins of GROW, local Groups & the GROW programme. Ciaran Austin (Console; Irish National Suicide Charity) said  Console provides free professional 24 hour suicide prevention & bereavement counselling accessible through the free phone Helpline 1800 201 890. Console is key point of contact for people bereaved by suicide & provides crisis intervention services for people. Bill Vaughan (Mental Health Ireland) spoke of the impact of alcohol abuse on mental health & said it was challenging for people to protect their mental health in times of extra pressures due to recession leading to many problems. When people feel stressed, there can be a tendency to drink excessively, increasing the chances that an accident may happen, & people can make a decision that they would not normally do.  Excessive drinking can set off emotional/mental problems that were not apparent previously.   Angela Maguire, De Exeter House Therapeutic Care Centre (specializing in addiction & depression treatment, recovery & respite) located in Termon, Donegal identified De Exeter House as a local N D C N solution for the problems identified. De Exeter House is a modern, professional Facility. Angela spoke of rural Ireland of generations ago where there were large families & few facilities e.g. running water in taps – yet families flourished. Finance & technology was not as important for them as principles & character. Angela suggested communities should adopt a strategy of endeavour, self sustainability & commitment & stressed the importance of communities working in co-operation – as the private Business Sector, statutory Organizations & the Community Sector should work in partnership. Angela wanted De Exeter House to work with local communities, Agencies, etc coherently for ‘solutions’ to the problems identified. Angela’s words embody a good ‘prescription’ for  N D C N & rural communities.  

Ciaran Austin (Console; Irish National Suicide Charity)
Ciaran Austin (Console; Irish National Suicide Charity)