Fortune victim launches new mental health support service

By david looby

Published 14/05/2016 | 00:00

Co-founders of 'New Me New Ross', Ken Webster and Pat Bennett, with Cllr Anthony Connick at the Dunbrody in New Ross.
Co-founders of 'New Me New Ross', Ken Webster and Pat Bennett, with Cllr Anthony Connick at the Dunbrody in New Ross.

A New Ross man who was repeatedly raped by Fr Sean Fortune has launched a mental health support service in New Ross.

Patrick Bennett, 49, was preyed upon by serial child rapist Fr Sean Fortune in the 1980s when he was a teenager.

Fr Fortune is believed to have abused more than 66 children while working as a priest in the Fethard-on-Sea area.

Patrick has suffered from mental health problems ever since and has been diagnosed with several forms of mental illness for which he is receiving treatment.

He released an autobiography entitled said 'Taking Back My Soul' in 2012, describing it at the time as 'a story from my heart of years of sadistic savagery at Fr Fortune's hands'.

Patrick and Ken Webster are launching the 'New Me, New Ross' group during Green Ribbon month.

See Change, the National Stigma Reduction Partnership and its 90 partner organisations are rolling out a month long national Green Ribbon Campaign this month to get people talking openly about mental health problems.

During this month more than 500,000 green ribbons will be distributed nationwide free of charge to spark a national conversation about mental health.

Patrick said his experience of mental health and the loss of 'too many firneds' to suicide has prompted him to take action.

'New Me, New Ross, is for mental health service users, their families, people who have been abused and people with addiction problems. We have the Dunbrody famine ship lit up green and the green flags will remain on O'Hanrahan Bridge throughout the month. I want to get a conversation going in the New Ross area about mental health and to develop a support service here for people so they know they are not alone.'

Patrick said he has been a mental health support service user since 2005.

'My friends and I set up this support group a year ago but we're launching it now. Everyone is welcome to get involved.'

'New Me, New Ross' has several aspirations including a taxi watch service and a support centre in New Ross.

'We set up a Facebook page and a website which lists 24/7 services in the area. It only really got going in the last few months. The Green Ribbon campaign is our first real initiaitve here. We hope to open a centre where people can come in and have a chat.'

A post he shared on Facebook which is accompanied by a picture of the Dunbrody ship illuminated in green has received a strong response.

In it he says: 'Just as a sailing ship, there are so many ropes, lines, links and levels that we never see!

'The reason we don't see them is because we only see the overall picture. We look at it and think what a beautiful, majestic creation it is and we only see the real details of it when it is brought to our attention, but other than that we trust that everything is safe and well and we continue on with our daily lives. That's a lot like mental health or ill health in people's lives.

'We can meet people every day and talk and chat as if everything is great and that mental health issues only happen to other people and we only realise when it is too late be that through those problems being multiplied or something much more devastating and even then we treat those affected differently.

'We stigmatise them for want of a better word in so many ways and all because we didn't just simply talk about how we or others may be feeling, that's all, it really is that simple!

'So please, do your part, wear and share the "Green Ribbon" and let's start talking about mental health one conversation at a time.'

He said like any illness, early diagnosis and treatment is key for people suffering from mental health problems, otherwise there can be tragic outcomes.

'We are also involved in Advancing Recovery Ireland under the government's Vision for Change mental health programme. We hope to secure funding and to move forward with this.'

Patrick' gave evidence at the Ferns Inquiry. His self-published 468 page autobiography is available through Amazon in both download and paperback formats.

Patrick, who gave evidence at the Ferns Inquiry, said: 'It is a story that has to be told in order to protect our children's futures. Raped in every way possible by Fr. Sean Fortune, drug and alcohol abuse, suicide attempts, legal battles, empty apologies, love, happiness, dreams come through and even more heartbreak. I lay it all out here.'

People can contact the new service via email at newmenewross@gmail.com or at its mobile message service on 087 0914525.

Wexford People

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