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Mental health and road to recovery explored at Connecting for Life Conference

Mental Health Connecting in Donegal

Back row left to right Oonagh McArdle, NUI Maynooth, Peter Walker HSE, Eamon McGee Former Donegal Footballer, Liam Ward DCC,  Mairead Cranley DCC, Paul Kernan Intercultural Platform, Front Row left to right Mary Coyle Ionad Naomh Padraig, Cindy O’Connor Pieta House, Cathaoirlaech Cllr Gerry McMonagle DCC, Anne Sheridan HSE and Theresa Dykes Mental Health Services HSE in CHO1


Over 80 people attended this year’s annual Connecting for Life conference for Donegal which was held in the Ionad Naomh Padraig, Dobhair on Friday last.


Attendees included those from Health, Education and Community & Voluntary organisations interested or involved in suicide prevention in attendance and the purpose of the conference is to share good practices and build connections in the area of suicide prevention.


In his opening address Cathaoirleach, Cllr. Gerry McMonagle spoke on the deeply sensitive and devastating issue that is suicide in society and the need for cooperation in this area.


“In the world we live in today with people facing many different types of difficult situations and challenges it is hard to think of anyone who has not been directly affected by suicide or mental health issues. Now, more so than ever, we must stress the importance and value of community, community spirit, and cooperation to combat these issues. We as a Local Authority have an onus to help people with mental health issues and focus on providing support to people who are in crisis, whether it be housing, job creation or promoting social inclusion. Our aim here today is to bring people together from different sectors, services and communities in order to strengthen our collective ability to be a major force for change in suicide prevention in Donegal.”   


Máire Uí Chomhaill, Bainisteoir of Ionad Naomh Pádraig, Dobhar expressed her gratitude at the importance of this conference being held in west of Donegal and the Conference started off with a drama piece “Waving not Drowning” by Mark McCollum and his cast. This performance gave a very real example of all the different challenges people are facing in life.


This was followed by guest speakers including former Donegal Footballer Eamon McGee from Gweedore who gave a very personal and moving message of hope about his own issues with mental health and his journey to recovery.  Anne Sheridan, Mental Health Promotion/Suicide Resource Officer for HSE Donegal gave an update on the implementation of the Connecting for Life action plan two years on and Cindy O Connor, Chief Operations manager, Pieta House gave a presentation on Pieta North West and the first 6 months in Donegal.


And finally Paul Kernan Intercultural Platform introduced Oonagh McArdle, NUI, Maynooth who carried out a piece of research on engaging with young men in Donegal. 

This was followed by a short workshop discussion where groups could provide feedback on the day and also exchange ideas and information on the different services and the connections that can be made in the area of suicide prevention.


A Multi Lingual services brochure was also launched as part of the conference.  This brochure was created to provide a list of emergency services in 7 different languages English, Romanian, French, Russian, Arabic, Polish, and Chinese.


To conclude, Dr. Kevin Malone, Professor of Psychiatry & Mental Health in UCD gave an overview of the national and local picture in terms of suicide rates and encouraged the audience to keep strengthening their cooperation and build deeper connections as the best means of promoting positive mental health and reducing rates of suicide.

The conference was delivered as part of the Connecting for Life Donegal action plan which is a 5 year plan (2015 -2020) for suicide prevention that involves a broad range of organisations and individuals from the statutory, non-statutory,  the community and voluntary sector, and also the general public. This local plan forms part of the national Connecting for Life strategy which sets a minimum target of a 10% reduction in the suicide rate in Ireland by 2020.


Attendees were then invited to the Lived Lives Lost exhibition, an exhibition of stories of young lives lost to suicide in Ireland, at An Gailearí, Áislann Ghaoth Dobhair.




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