A woman from a farming background in Co. Laois, who is involved in the opening of the SOSAD (Save our sons and daughters) service in her home county, is urging farmers and rural people in particular to reach out for help if they are struggling with mental health issues.
“My two brothers who farm in Laois often struggle to come to terms with the loss of lifelong friends in the agricultural community as a result of suicide,” said Úna Doogue.
“We are losing both young people and our more mature friends from towns and rural communities throughout Laois, and the gap between every tragedy appears to get shorter.”
SOSAD is a non-profit organisation founded to offer free support and services to people who are struggling with bereavement, depression, self harm, suicidal ideation, stress and anxiety.
The organisation will open an office in Portlaoise in June, and already it has offices in Cavan, Drogheda, Dundalk, Navan and Monaghan.
SOSAD’s goal is to provide support and care to individuals through a variety of services, such as: a 24-hour helpline; one-to-one counselling; a Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) skills group; bereavement support; walk and talk therapy; talks at schools and businesses; and a messaging service for young people.
The newly established SOSAD Laois branch will hold a virtual variety show featuring acts from all over the county which will be streamed on SOSAD live on Sunday, June 6, at 8:00p.m.
The line-up will include: Laois Comhaltas; Music Generation Laois, accompanying the Lynam School of Dancing; Portlaoise GAA; Portlaoise Musical Society; Portlaoise Pantomime Group; Portlaoise Panthers; One of A Kind; popular priest Fr. Paddy Byrne; Laois School of Music and Heywood Community School. The Heywood entry ‘Perspective Junk Couture’, organised by Erin Lalor from Raheen, is being sponsored by Glanbia, Raheen.
Country singer Michael English is supporting the initiative, which will have Laois mental health campaigner, Christy Bannon, as compère.
Well known personalities including: Claire Byrne, a Laois native; David Norris, who has Laois connections; Portlaoise’s Zach Tuohy, the Australian rules footballer, and Brent Pope will be judging the event.
Support in Laois
Úna said she had thought about setting up a drop-in centre in Portlaoise a couple of years ago, to support those struggling with mental health difficulties.
“Then I became aware of the SOSAD organisation and built up a relationship with it through my work as parliamentary assistant to the ‘Aontú leader, Peadar Tóibin,” she said.
“I took on the position of Aontú Portlaoise local area representative at the end of last year, and the mental health and suicide crisis in Laois was one of the very first issues I wanted to address.
“Through discussions with the SOSAD organisation, it was agreed that we would open a centre in Portlaoise. We launched a free phone counselling service in February.
“At the time of launching SOSAD Laois, I was aware, through my own research, that almost 80 people from Laois were waiting for various HSE counselling services with a number of those waiting for more than six months.
“It’s questionable and most unlikely that people from the farming community, especially men, were among those figures. Yet evidence shows time and time again that they are the group most at risk due to the challenges of rural isolation and precarious income, especially among beef farmers, with the impact of Covid increasing that risk.”
“In addition to free counselling services, SOSAD Laois will provide a welcoming drop in centre where anyone can call in for a cup of tea and a chat in confidence if they’re not feeling so good,” she continued.
“We need to reach out to the farming community in particular. We need to make them aware that the Laois community has come together to support them by establishing the centre.
“There will be ongoing local fundraising efforts to ensure that this voluntary health service is a permanent feature in the county for those in crisis and families left behind due to suicide,” she concluded.
SOSAD helpline is: 041 9848754.