Positive Health and Emotional Well-being (PHEW!) weekend of events in the Donegal Gaeltacht a great success

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Promoting mental health and well-being in the Donegal Gaeltacht was the focus of a successful series of weekend events which were held during World Mental Health Week 2016 in Ranafast, Annagry, and Mullaghderg.      The Positive Health and Emotional Well-being (PHEW!) events featured a wide range of speakers and demonstrations on strategies for keeping mind and body healthy, as well as information on mental health supports available in the county.      The event was organised by Linda Uí Ghallchóir and Maria Coleman of Lámha (Life Affirming Mental Health Action) with the support of a number of local agencies, including Donegal Local Development Company (DLDC), the HSE, and Mental Health Ireland.      “It went really well,” Linda said of the event. “There was a lot of hard work put in and a lot of community assistance which helped to make the event a great success.”      The PHEW! weekend started with a Mind Your Mental Health Workshop presented at Áislann Rann na Feirste by Bill Vaughan of Mental Health Ireland.

The fun, interactive workshop provided participants with a chance to reflect on the importance of mental health, as well as to learn strategies for enhancing their own well-being and resilience.      “We had almost 30 participants at the morning workshop and they really enjoyed it,” Linda said. “A number of them requested that we run the workshop over a full day next time.”      Other organisation representatives who participated in the workshop included Kit Keeting and Brid Ward of Gweedore and Rosses Social Prescribers; Noreen Doogan of the Money Advice and Budgeting Service in Gweedore; and Paul Kernan of Pobail le Chéile in Falcarragh.      An in-depth information session regarding mental health supports available in the county was held on the Saturday afternoon at Annagry Hall. The session included talks by Majella O’Donnell of Donegal Mind Wellness, Marian Maguire of GROW, Liam Donnelly of the HSE, Sean McGrory of Jigsaw, and Susan McFeeley of Shine.      On the Sunday an entertaining session about hobbies and sports that can help to keep mind and body healthy was held at CLG Naomh Muire in Mullaghderg. Speakers included PHEW! organiser Maria Coleman of Lámha on the benefits of yoga; Joanne Lindsay Butler of OURganic Gardens; and Iain Miller of Unique Ascent, an organisation which offers cliff-climbing experiences.      “The demonstrations were of hobbies and adrenaline sports which can help to promote wellness, as well as of relaxation skills that can improve people’s coping abilities,” Linda said, noting that the Sunday event had drawn more male participants than the Saturday ones.      Linda and Maria thanked everyone who supported them in organising the event. They offered special recognition to the invited speakers and community venues, all of whom participated free of charge, and to DLDC, which provided information and guidance, as well as funds for printing and refreshments through the Social Inclusion Community Activation Programme (SICAP).

The PHEW! weekend was one of a number of initiatives that Lámha is undertaking to promote mental health and well-being in the Donegal Gaeltacht. “We’re based in the Gaeltacht and are working to raise awareness about mental health through the Irish language, so that Irish speakers have no barriers to developing wellness skills and seeking out mental health assistance if they need it,” Linda said.      Lámha has developed Irish language programmes for national and secondary schools which promote mental health and well-being among students of all ages.      “We want to speak to kids at an early age, to give them coping skills through music, yoga, and sports…but in a way that they don’t know they’re getting skills, they’re just enjoying themselves,” Linda said of the national school programme that Lámha has designed.

A secondary school programme that the group has developed offers students strategies for managing exam-related stress. “We’ll be talking about ‘wellness’ rather than ‘mental health’, as changing the terminology will help to break down the stigma associated with mental health-related topics,” Linda said of the programme, which Lámha will be delivering at the Abbey Vocational School in Donegal Town and Pobalscoil Ghaoth Dobhair in the coming weeks.      “We all know about looking after our physical health,” Linda added. “So why not look after our mental health? We all have hard times.”

Shown at the Positive Health and Emotional Well-being (PHEW!) weekend of events held recently in the Gaeltacht are (from left): Angela Uí Fhearraigh, Donegal Local Development Company; and PHEW Co-ordinators Linda Uí Ghallchóir and Maria Coleman of Lámha.
Shown at the Positive Health and Emotional Well-being (PHEW!) weekend of events held recently in the Gaeltacht are (from left): Angela Uí Fhearraigh, Donegal Local Development Company; and PHEW Co-ordinators Linda Uí Ghallchóir and Maria Coleman of Lámha.