A Donegal woman has shared the story of how she broke free from the effects of an abusive marriage with the help of mental health charity GROW.

May is Green Ribbon Month and the mental health charity, GROW, is urging Donegal people to seek support if they are struggling with any aspect of their mental health and wellbeing.

One local woman who has rediscovered her love of life with the help of GROW is Mary*, who has been attending GROW for the past five years.

This week Mary has chosen to share her story to highlight the importance of seeking support and reaching out to others.

Mary says: “When I first joined a GROW support group, I was in a very sad place and struggling to remain in an abusive marriage. My confidence and self-esteem were at an all-time low.

“The main problem was that I didn’t know why I was feeling like that, as I thought it was “normal” to work hard and be abused verbally for my efforts.   

The Donegal woman said she found solace and friendship from the meetings, which had many enjoyable aspects.

“When I came back to the GROW support group the following week, the main reason was because the people in the group were so friendly, warm and welcoming.

“There was a good structure to the GROW support meeting which I enjoyed, as it was also about learning about mental health and mental recovery,” she says.

GROW holds free weekly mental health support meetings across Co. Donegal, where groups follow a 12-step mental health recovery programme and focus on practical tasks and mutual support.

“I kept coming back as I had made a commitment to the group that I would return and a commitment to myself that I could unlearn some habits and attitudes and get happier.

“I have had support from the group in solving day-to-day tasks such as getting to bed early and setting healthy boundaries,” Mary adds.

GROW is Ireland’s largest community-based mental health organisation and is aimed at promoting positive mental health and recovery. A key to mental well-being is social connection and breaking isolation.

“The social aspect of GROW was great for me – meeting other friendly group members who are understanding and don’t judge you.

“Before I came to GROW, I was stuck in my comfort zone which was a painful and unhappy place. I have since grown from a fearful, anxious, shy person to a contented, friendly and life-loving person, which has also had a positive effect on my family and other relationships,” says Mary.

GROW is among the partner organisations of the Green Ribbon campaign. The month-long campaign is aimed at promoting open conversation of mental health and challenging the stigma of mental health problems.

GROW holds 120 peer support group meetings in communities across Ireland each week including Dungloe, Letterkenny, Buncrana, Stranorlar, Donegal town, Carndonagh and Killybegs. GROW meetings are free to attend and open to those aged over 18. For more details on GROW meetings see: www.grow.ie

You can pick up your free Green Ribbon at Irish Rail stations, Citizens Information Centres or at the GROW office in Pearse Road, Letterkenny.

*Mary has chosen not to share her real name.