2020 was a year like no other. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to impact all of us and has been very challenging for the mental health of many. For Connect Mental Health the Covid-19 outbreak meant changing our planned 2020 activity to allow us to respond to the crisis and promote positive mental health in Donegal in a safe way, adhering to all government guidelines and providing meaningful supports to the local community. In this article we provide a brief overview of the activity we undertook in 2020.
In response to the first national lockdown in March we partnered with Foróige to create ‘Resilience Packs’ that were delivered to over 200 young people across the county. Each pack was created with the specific family in mind, including games, crafts, personal care items, self care products, and even some vouchers. The packs promoted positive mental health while also signposting to important local youth mental health services like Jigsaw Donegal.
The development of the Resilience Packs was supported by Donegal Local Development CLG through their COVID-19 Response Fund. Stephen Barrett, Community Worker, DLDC said, “Connect Mental Health always find innovative and inspiring ways of ‘Championing’ positive mental health in the County. The ‘resilience packs’ are only one example, of the many different responses, projects and events led out by the group and partners, for the benefit of the community in recent years.”
In the absence of being able to host our usual programme of workshops throughout the county we brought our workshops online. These online workshops were attended by over 180 people and included the following topics, designed to respond to the challenges posed by Covid-19.
Tips & Tools for Managing Your Mental Health during Covid-19 (in partnership with SOS)
Managing the Inner Critic (in partnership with SOS)
Strategies for Coping Better During Periods of Anxiety
In October we were delighted to partner with Mental Health First Aid Ireland to bring their renowned two day Mental Health First Aid course to Donegal (virtually). Attendees at this course included staff from Donegal Family Resource Centre network, Donegal Youth Service and other organisations in the county who may, in their line of work, come across individuals experiencing mental health difficulties.
Thank you to facilitators Jacqui Crutchley and Teresa Keane for delivering the course, Donal Scanlan and the team at Mental Health First Aid Ireland for working with us again and to the HSE for sponsoring.
Over the past 3 years we are delighted to have partnered with Mental Health First Aid Ireland to bring 9 mental health first aid courses to Donegal. These courses have taken place across the county in Moville, St. Johnston, Dunfanaghy, Portnoo, Ballyshannon, Letterkenny, Buncrana & Ballybofey and have seen 173 people now fully certified.
Text 50808 Partnership
In September we were delighted to launch a partnership with Text 50808, a free 24/7 text service, providing everything from a calming chat to immediate support for people going through a mental health or emotional crisis. For support in a crisis free-text DLMH to 50808 to be connected to a trained crisis volunteer.
Speaking at the launch of the partnership, Connect Mental Health Chairperson Ciaran McLoone said: ‘We are delighted to partner with 50808 to promote this innovative service to the people of Donegal. Sometimes it’s easier to text than talk and this service will undoubtedly offer support to people of all ages throughout the county. Connect Mental Health will ensure that the people of Donegal are aware of, and have access to, this important service during this exceptionally difficult time for our country.’
50808 CEO Ian Power welcomed the partnership: ‘We’re thrilled to be working with Connect Mental Health to bring the 50808 service to people in Donegal. Our goal is to make sure everyone knows that whether they need a calming chat or immediate support, our volunteers are standing by around the clock, ready to listen. The 50808 service is free, anonymous and available 24/7 and is an accessible way for people who are more comfortable to text to reach out and get support. Our aim is to make the 50808 number famous, and we’re delighted to be working with Connect Mental Health to do just that across the county of Donegal.’
If you’re experiencing a personal crisis, are unable to cope and need support free-text DLMH to 50808.
Age Friendly Programme
In November we supported Donegal Age Friendly Programme in the development of a ‘Winter Ready Pack.’ The packs were delivered to 5000 Older Peoples houses across County Donegal. Donegal is one of many counties in Ireland that are part of the Age Friendly Ireland Programme. The Age Friendly Programme works to make Ireland one of the best places in the world in which to grow old. The packs were created as a response to the Covid 19 Pandemic, that has proved particularly challenging for the older age group who are continually being advised to stay safe and in their home away from friends and family.
The packs were specially designed and created for older people. An advent calendar was included that featured a positive mental health message or task to carry out behind each door along with a chocolate reward for doing so. Nutrition is always very important, included in the pack, information and simple nutritious recipes to cook with a packet of Porridge and Soup provided. Even though Older People are at home, the age friendly programme would encourage everyone to wrap up using the “Beanie hat” supplied, go outside into nature to plant the Daffodil bulbs and feed the birds with the bird seed that is also inside the pack. For the days that people cannot get outside, the packs contained an Activity Booklet and pencil to keep the mind active and a simple exercise programme to keep the body moving. To relax and unwind in the longer evenings, the packs contained a tea bag, this was to encourage people to sit back, have their cup of tea and read through the literature provided on security in your home, keep in contact card and information on the Doorstep delivery service from Donegal Library Services.
In the lead up to Christmas we again partnered with Foróige to create Christmas Cheer Packs filled full of treats and vouchers to bring a little bit of sparkle into the lives of young people and their families. Almost 40 families in the south west of the county were hand delivered a Cheer Pack by their Foróige Project Worker (while adhering to all public health guidelines), benefitting over 50 young people engaged with Foróige, as well as parents, siblings, and the extended family.
Susan McLoughlin from Foróige said “This year has been exceptionally challenging for everyone including our young people. They get a lot of negative publicity but we have witnessed so many young people leading by example and who have been exemplary in the way they have followed the guidelines to keep themselves and others safe. Like so many others, young people have also experienced mental health challenges this year. So this was our opportunity to do something positive and bring a little bit of hope and happiness to their lives. We couldn’t have done it without the support of Connect Mental Health who funded the initiative”. As one parent put it, “Thank you so much, you have brought some badly needed joy in to this house tonight”.
We also worked with Foróige on Christmas Well Being packs for 15 additional families throughout Donegal (28 young people ranging from 7-17years) who have been engaged in the Foróige Marginalised Youth Project throughout 2020. This project works with young people who are marginalised because of their ethnicity, geographical isolation, religious and cultural beliefs. Marginalised young people are particularly vulnerable to being further isolated during the school holiday period. These packs included mental health & well being tips, activities, vouchers for sports wear and care products, books and art supplies, goodies and essential contact details of services which will support these young people in what for some can be a lonely time of year.
The support received by Donegal Local Development CLG through their COVID-19 Response Fund was also used to develop the Christmas Cheer packs.
2020 was a challenging year for many in the charity sector. We rely heavily on the support and generosity of the local community to raise funds that allow us to undertake the activity outlined. While we had to cancel our own planned fundraising activity early in the year due to the pandemic we were humbled to receive fantastic support from the local community who took on creative and innovative fundraisers to support Connect Mental Health.
In July we were extremely grateful to 11 local heroes who completed an epic swim from Creevy Pier to Rossnowlagh Beach. The lads raised an incredible €10,000 for Connect Mental Health and also made a fantastic contribution to “A Better Life for Livie”. Thank you to Philip, David, Donald, Michael, Rory, Philip, Chris, Brian, Ivan, Ciaran & Shane and everyone who supported and contributed to their efforts.
In September 39 teams turned out for the annual Connect Mental Health Golf Classic in Bundoran Golf Club. Conditions were very tough but some great scores still posted. Thank you to our generous sponsors, the excellent staff at Bundoran Golf Club and the teams that participated. Congratulations to Robert Barnes, David Barnes, Michael Dolan and Turlough Craig on winning the Classic with a score of 92 Pts.
During the November lockdown David McGurrin ran the distance from where he currently lives in Dooradoyle, Limerick, back to Ballyshannon, his hometown, which is approximately 271km. David ran the 271km all within 5km of his home in Dooradoyle as per the restrictions during lockdown. Thanks so much David for putting in the KMs, ALL 271 OF THEM, raising €3,835 for Connect Mental Health in the process. Thank you to everyone who supported David along the way and so generously donated.
We were delighted to be chosen as one of three charities supported by employees at Abbott Donegal. The employees at ADC Donegal raised funds through many new and innovative initiatives and made a fantastic donation to Connect Mental Health, Cancer Care West and the North West Hospice.