A team of volunteers are hoping to bring a community together and generate more health and happiness to break the cycle of suicide.

Donegal Town is set to become the first ever Positive Wellness Community in Ireland. This achievement is all down to the enthusiasm and drive of the local Cycle Against Suicide volunteers who have worked tirelessly each year to spread the message of the campaign:

“It’s ok not to feel ok; and it’s absolutely ok to ask for help”

The Positive Wellness Community will be built around this message – with groups, activities and events designed to encourage mental health awareness.

Anne McGowan, a member of the Donegal Town volunteer committee for Cycle Against Suicide, tells Donegal Woman how the team are encouraging all local groups to share their ideas on how the town can band together and combat the issue.

Anne McGowan, Pauric Kennedy, Shirley Doherty

Anne’s journey all began three years ago when she volunteered as a homestay host to take in cyclists passing through Donegal. She soon got more involved over the years and is now a national coordinator with Cycle Against Suicide.

Anne’s first year helping with Cycle Against Suicide had such an impact that she has joined the organising committee and works to spread the message all over the country.

“It was a fantastic experience to see all the cyclists come into Donegal Town. There was a great buzz and we were overwhelmed with the community effort and how much everyone got involved. We invested €20 and made around 40 flags to brighten up the town. That brought in a great feeling of community spirit,” Anne said.

The community constantly works to get the core message across to as many people as they can.

“We all have down days, we have highs and lows and most of us can get through it. For someone who is down we tell them just reach out and ask a friend to meet or go for a coffee and say you’re not in good form. It’s not unusual to not feel okay. If you do need help it’s there and just reach out,” Anne explained.

Last year, Anne promoted the Light Up Orange initiative to create awareness of World Suicide Prevention Week in September, helping communities highlight the issue by lighting up buildings.

Anne is a busy mum of four and works in her husband Martin’s hardware store in Donegal Town. Her work on the committee is all voluntary and all great fun, she says.

“I wouldn’t be able to do anything without the committee. There is no way in the whole wide world that you could do everything on your own. It’s not all busy-busy either, it’s great fun,” Anne said.

The efforts of the local Cycle Against Suicide team in Donegal have brought about this new Positive Wellness Community initiative. Donegal Town will be the first community in Ireland to pilot the Communities Against Suicide project. The initiative is designed to generate awareness of emotional wellbeing, build momentum within the community in relation to open communication around mental health and to develop and make available to people the tools they can use for seeking help.

The local committee has organised a public meeting in the Abbey Hotel, Donegal Town on Tuesday 7th February 2017 at 7.30pm to form action plans and discuss ideas for making Donegal a “Positive Wellbeing Community”.

Cycle Against Suicide pays a flying visit to so many towns across Ireland, while a wellness community is permanent and something to work on all year round.

“Anything could come from this meeting and that’s what we are excited about. We are trying to bring together little groups in the community and have invited everyone to attend – from local organisations schools, clubs, groups, church ministers, school principals and care associations,” Anne said.

Forming the Positive Wellbeing Community will involve determining the best activities and events to be run in the town. A Positive Wellbeing Day is in the pipeline for the town, as well as some fun physical events.

Cycle Against Suicide

“The Cycle Against Suicide route will not be passing through Donegal Town this year so we are looking forward to keeping the message alive in our end of the country. Judging by the response so far we have a lot of people interested in the project.

“It’s new, it’s unique and we’ll be the first in Ireland to pilot the scheme. Hopefully it will be a success and will be rolled out into other communities,” Anne said.

Cycle Against Suicide 2017 Route Map

Anne plans to join the first week of the Cycle Against Suicide event this April as the group travel through Ireland spreading the key message. She’s going on one condition – that she won’t set a foot on a pedal!

“I will be going on the condition that I wouldn’t get on a bike. I will be doing admin duties along the way from a support vehicle. I’m the exception to the rule! I’m hoping the message will be carried again from Dublin to Belfast to Limerick and back to Donegal,” she said.

The message will be heard loud and clear in Donegal this year thanks to the establishment of the Positive Wellbeing Community. Dudley Farrell who is the National Coordinator of the initiative will be at the first meeting on February 7th to present the proposal together with volunteers from Cycle Against Suicide.

If you have an idea for helping people achieve a healthy mind, body and spirit, then come along to the meeting or share your thoughts with the committee via Rena Brogan 087 241 6975 or email Anne McGowan on anne.mcgowan@cycleagainstsuicide.com.

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