You are not alone with Aware
Every Wednesday night, in the Shamrock Room at Clonard Community Centre in Wexford, a diverse group of strangers come together for two hours to talk about their mental health.
Members of an Aware support group, the men and women of all ages over 18 and all walks of life share their experience of depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety or stress.
Aware has been running the confidential group for about 15 years in Wexford, with the help of local trained volunteers who facilitate the meetings at which people share their thoughts and feelings and pass on helpful tips and coping strategies.
The Aware message is that no matter what it is you are feeling, you are not alone but crossing the threshold to that first meeting can often be daunting.
'I meet people who have come to the door of a group 15 times and gone away again. It could take a year, two years for someone to find the courage to go in,' said Rosemary Carville, Aware's national director of services.
'And when they do cross the threshold, they are in a warm, welcoming and safe atmosphere that comes with the support of peers in their own community.'
Crosstown man Jim Goggin, a former ACC Bank executive of 38-years service, became an Aware volunteer after retiring from work in 2009. He had previously completed a third level counselling course in Waterford in 2003 and received further training from Aware.
'The self-help nature of the group is phenomenal. It's like a vine that wraps its way around everyone. I've learned so much about everything. I cannot say enough about Aware and the brilliant people coming to it,' said Jim who is one of six local volunteers.
'Because of the isolation that many of these mood disorders brings along, one of the most important things people need is for someone to listen to them. Being listened to is one of the most important functions of a person's therapy.,' he said.
'I see people lifted up when they tell their story. There is a weight off their shoulders. They now have someone to share their story with and they know it will be given the dignity and consideration it deserves,' said Jim.
Rosemary said some people often ahve preconceived ideas of the group which are quickly dispelled when they arrive.
'One woman told me that what put her off going was the thought that everyone would be really sick and on medication. But she was surprised to meet very normal people, the same as you would meet on the street.'
Aware recently placed an information stand in Penney's on the Main Street in Wexford where one of its volunteers is employed.
'It was fantastic, people were so interested,' said Rosemary. 'I had a girl as young as 14 come up to me and ask if she could come along to the group but I explained that she was too young and told her about the 'Beat the Blues' project that we do for transition year classes in schools.
Anyone interested in attending the Wexford group should just turn up on Wednesday night at 8p.m.
'You will be met with friendly people who know where you are and what you are going through. There is no prejudice whatsoever,' said Jim.
The Aware support line can be contacted on 1800 804848.