Gemma's Operation Mental Health set to tackle issue head on
News of the long waiting list for counselling services coupled with her family's own experience of mental illness led Gemma Hayes to take Wexford's mental health crisis into her own hands.
Her upcoming event 'Operation Mental Health' will bring people together on Wednesday October 26 to release 1,000 fresh gerbera flowers out to sea from Wexford Bridge. This gesture will serve as a mark of respect to loved ones lost to suicide and show support to all individuals currently stuggling with mental illness.
However, the release is about much more than sending a message. Through collecting funds for It's Good to Talk through flower sales, Gemma is hoping that her plan to help those with mental health problems will grow and flourish.
'I know people from It's Good to Talk so I am aware that there is a long waiting list for their counselling services. This is horrific,' said Gemma. 'Through raising money, we hope to be able to pay for the counselling services that these people need so that they can be seen to immediately.'
Gemma's idea for Operation Mental Health was spurred on from personal experience.
'I know only too well what mental health problems can do. For 17 years, a family member has been unwell due to a mental health problem. The issue is really important to my family,' she said.
Gemma contacted Wexford County Council and It's Good to Talk and through the help of Mayor Frank Staples, Coordinator of It's Good to Talk Maria Roche, Cllr Davy Hynes and District Manager Angela Laffan, her event began to take shape. Rosaleen's Flowers supplied all of the gerberas for the event, while over 20 volunteers will also get involved on the night.
'I wouldn't have been able to do this without them behind me,' said Gemma.
The event will coincide with the night of the Wexford Festival Opera fireworks display. From 6.30 p.m. until 7.15 p.m., flowers can be purchased for €2 from the carpark by the traffic lights at the end of Wexford bridge. At 7.25 p.m. sharp, there will be a speech on Wexford Bridge by Mayor Frank Staples. This will be followed by a moment of silence and the flower release.
Gemma had originally planned the event as a balloon release. 'The event was fully sanctioned by the council and I had adhered to all of the regulations by sourcing fully biodegradable and compostable balloons and ties. This didn't suit certain people and as some were planning to protest against it, I took the decision to make the change,' explained Gemma, who said she didn't want to dilute the purpose of the event.
Gemma is calling on people from across the community to come on October 26 to help to spread her message.
'We want to show people who are struggling with mental health difficulties that we really care for them and are here to help,' she said.