Piecing together the JIGSAW for Mental Health in Offaly

Death walks among us. In every town and village in Ireland, in all communities, even the Irish Traveller community in which it is still very much a taboo, suicide stalks, and claims victims, one of the more high profile in the last year being the tragic passing of Lucy Stack.

In a time when we still have a lot compared to other times, such as during the famine, or the aftermath of the War of Independence, we are still hemorrhaging hundreds a year to it, and more near misses with unsuccessful attempts.

JIGSAW OffalyAs a nation, we didn’t tend to talk about our problems, but we are changing, and must change, to stop an epidemic that claims way too many, and way too many of those are way too young to die so soon.

A lot of our social problems are and have been rooted in mental health issues, which when they get out of control can end up as suicide. Our issues with drink and with drugs often root in our desire to feel at ease with ourselves and where we see our place in the world.

To tackle this, only of latter years, early intervention has become the approach. In the midlands this was speared by local TD John Maloney of Fianna Fáil. Whatever we may think of the last government, and not forgetting how many have been driven to take their own lives due to the economy and how it affected them, there was an effort which has been built on to tackle the broader issue, where mental health issues arise independent of economic and social circumstances.

In Offaly, the latest tool in this war, and in support of the suffering, is JIGSAW, and their “Read Your Mind” scheme launch today was assisted by the Tullamore Rhymers Club, where I, Richard Brennan and Cormac Lally read pieces that reflected on the issue, and how approaches can be made.

Youth from Youthreach in Banagher, local schools, and youth groups, were in attendance at the multi agency scheme where reading – or bibliotherapy – is one tool being developed to help youths from 25 – 12, which has been identified as a high risk group, and an appropriate group for early intervention, support and prevention.

Speeches were given about the setup of the scheme and what it aims to provide, by Mary Dwyer and other JIGSAW staff, and also from Sinead Dooley who gave a background to the development of the programe from efforts through the years to get an early intervention approach.

It was opened by Richard Brennan, whose verse “The Well” sums up how “boys dont cry” is a dangerous approach to life, which we should change, and a good sob every do often is cleansing for the soul. Its still not advisable on a first date with a girl though!

The opening speeches were made, and I was up for the interval, where I focused on hope during the hard times, with my verse “I Believe” showing how faith can be a crutch in such times, based on a quote that goes around Facebook. Positive thinking can be a key to recovery. There will be a better tomorrow, even though that cant be seen in the storm of the problems of today, being followed by more speeches from staff fleshing out and giving thanks to those who got the scheme up and running.

Cormac Lally gave his Ninja Baby Moves an airing to an appreciate audience of parents! As well as a personal talk on how the issue affects all and everybody, and a slant from his own experience.

Sites of support

JIGSAW Offaly on Facebook
Samaritans A new number – FREE: 116 123

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