Helping Cork grow
When you suffer from depression, anxiety, panic attacks, or any other emotional or mental distress, the worst thing you can do is isolate yourself.
Christine Allen speaks to one group member about how Grow is helping people with mental health difficulties in Cork to reach out
Grow is a Community Mental Health Organisation, with meetings dotted around Cork each week. The organisation says its main strength lies in its members, through its peer support groups, helping each other to take control of problems and gain and maintaining positive mental health.
So, how does it work?
Members attend a confidential and free weekly meeting, which lasts around two hours. Here a 12-step programme allows members to learn and use the Grow programme - the first step being the need for members to accept they need to get more involved in their own mental health.
Members provide mutual support in undertaking certain tasks that encourage a healthy change in thinking, behaviour and/or relationships.
A North Cork group member, Shane (45)*, tells the Cork Independent that without Grow, he would be isolated and still mulling the negativity around in his head.
He joined Grow three years ago, when he accepted that he was depressed and in need of help.
“I accepted that depression had always been part of my life and I was going through a particularly bad bout of it at the time. I had tried everything, counselling, the works.”
He said he suffered the additional agony of accepting the mental health stigma.
“I just wanted to be normal – everyone does. Sadly, some people classify people with mental health difficulties as inferior people.”
He says there is no quick fix for mental health difficulties.
“People think that they can just be healed immediately. There is a gradual process – it takes time.”
He says step eight, which states, “We learned to think by reason rather than feelings and imagination” is crucial to beginning to live a normal life.
“When you’re having difficulties, you tend to go on feelings – you interpret things based on this, instead of logic. Feelings take dominance and reason is abandoned – this is not good.”
He says the Grow meeting starts with a reflection and continues with readings from 'The Programme of Growth to Maturity'. It then moves to members’ progress reports on their week.
“It’s hard to talk to family and friends in an open way about how you feel. With Grow, you can open up and be straight about it, because you are with people who understand and have been, or are going through the same thing.”
Each week, group members get a task that will help them overcome an obstacle in their lives.
“Recently, I arranged to spend more time with my daughter as my task. I had been spending more time with my sons, because I’m involved in sports. Me and my daughter went shopping – it was really lovely.”
Shane is one of the many members who have undertaken the 12-step programme, which leads people through a journey of recovery.
Finola O’Callaghan, Fieldworker with Grow, explains that Grow meetings members experience acceptance and a sense of belonging.
“At a Grow meeting, members will find a way to progressively overcome isolation and fear, or depression and anger. They will find that problems shared become problems halved.” She said resources shared also become resources multiplied and the experiences of members can help someone else.
Grow believes that friendship is the key to good mental health. “You alone can do it but you can’t do it alone,” the group motto reads.
Meetings are held throughout Cork City and County, and are non-denominational, anonymous, confidential and free of charge, although members can make a small voluntary contribution if they so choose.
There is also a special young adult meeting held every Thursday evening in the SMA Wilton, aimed at the 18 to 30 year old age group.
There are meetings in Kanturk, Mallow, Fermoy, Bantry, Gurranabraher, Macroom, Mayfield, Wilton, Midleton, Youghal and at venues in Cork City.
For more information, contact Finola on 086-7702807, the Cork office on 021-427 7520 from Monday to Friday, 10am to 1pm. You can also check out on www.grow.ie.
* Shane’s name has been changed to protect his identity.