GRASSROOTS DIARY CLAIRE FOX Independent
A woman who likes to get things done, she set about trying to do something to fill the gap but realised — despite all the fundraising for mental health charities — very little of that money filtered its way back to West Cork.
People would raise thousands in West Cork each year but the charities would be based in Dublin or other cities and none of the funding would work its way down here,” says Noreen.
Seven years after the death of her husband Noreen set up Lisheens House Suicide Prevention Charity in Skibbereen to provide free counselling and support to people throughout the county of Cork.
Lisheen House makes local services available for local people.
“We provide services all over Cork. Wherever funding takes place we try to fund a service in that area, it doesn’t matter if you’re in Cork city or north Cork,” she says.
Yoga classes, music therapy and meditation also takes place in Lisheens House. Noreen believes the ethos of the charity can be replicated in other rural areas.
The name Lisheens House is the name of the family home Noreen and Donal lived in with their family of three children. “I felt it fitting that others would find peace and comfort under the name of the place he had worked so hard to create,” says Noreen. She adds that people from all walks of life with all sorts of issues from depression to drug addiction come to Lisheens House for help, with loneliness being one of the most prevalent issues.
“It can be very isolating down here and there is still a stigma around depression. Many people’s children move away and they are left on their own. It’s very sad,” she says.
For more information on the services Lisheens House provides or if you would like to donate call (028) 51950.
:Picture shows Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People Jim Daly TD with Noreen Murphy, founder, Lisheens House. PHOTO: Andy GIBSON
Another innovative art exhibition from Lisheens House, the home of a unique and much-loved music library. Following on from her successful series of music listening sessions, artist and support worker Karen Billing put out a call for paintings about music.
Come to Lisheens House from 1st December to view the inspirational results for yourself. Bring family and friends and spread the word on social media.
A New Listening and lending music library has officially opened at Lisheens House training and support centre, Ilen Street, Skibbereen. Over 1800 donated classical music CDs form the backbone of this new library which will also cater for a wide range of other musical tastes. “All of the music will be available for people to pop in, put on the headphones and lose themselves or maybe just forget about the worries of the world for a little while.
The Power of Music
It’s easily forgotten how powerful music is and how it can uplift our moods and outlook,” says founder Noreen Murphy, who was nominated for ‘Cork Person of the Year 2016’. Noreen’s partner, Michael Kearns, who manages the centre, is spearheading this new music project.
The centre will also be facilitating QPR (Question, Persuade and Refer) workshops in the near future, which teaches three simple steps that anyone can learn to help save a life from suicide.
Since its inception in 2014, with the help of volunteers and fundraising efforts, Lisheens House has gone from strength to strength. Providing free counselling to anyone going through a mental health crisis, the training and support centre is an invaluable resource to the people of West Cork.
Anyone is welcome to call in to centre in Skibbereen to make an appointment to see a counsellor, to get more information about the service or avail of one of the classes.
A number of classes and workshops, ranging from meditation to bereavement counselling, are held every week at the centre in Skibbereen and are open to everyone in the community.
A second hand and up-cycled furniture shop, community garden and regular art exhibitions are all future plans at Lisheens. “It’s a beautiful space, we have lots of rooms to rent out for classes and we want to encourage the community to be a part of it. You don’t have to be feeling suicidal to use the service here,” says Michael. “We’re open to everyone.”
Noreen Murphy Lisheens House founder recently attended a conference at UCC on Dual Diagnosis. At long last the powers that be are recognizing the fact that a large percentage of people presenting with a mental health issue also have an addiction issue and visa versa. Noreen is pictured Mary LMcDonald TD and Liadh Ni Riada MEP, who took time out of their busy schedules to organise and attend todays conference.
Between the key note speakers and the very personal stories from the floor, it was a very informative and worthwhile exercise and another step on the road to erasing the stigma surrounding mental health and addiction.
John Lonergan, former governor of Mountjoy Prison, cuts the ribbon at the launch of Lisheens House new premises in Skibbereen, watched by Ray Cullen (‘Talk to Tom’ Wexford), Jim Daly TD, Noreen Murphy, Margaret Murphy O’Mahony TD, Michael Collins TD and Mick Kearns. (Photo: Andy Gibson)
THE new offices of Lisheens House Suicide Prevention Centre were officially opened in Skibbereen.
The centre, which will house counselling, education, training and support services, is located in the former print room of The Southern Star offices.
With communication being key to good counselling, the building’s past, also being connected with communication, was mentioned by a number of speakers, including former Mountjoy governor John Lonergan, who opened the event.
Lisheens was co-founded by Bantry woman Noreen Murphy, who lost her own husband to suicide some years ago, and Mick Kearns from Dunmanway.
It is modelled on a similar service in Wexford – Talk to Tom – which was set up by Ray Cullen who also spoke at last Friday’s opening. A number of other services across the country, using the same model of counselling through education and support, are currently being rolled out.
The service, which currently receives no government funding, was promised the full backing of West Cork’s three sitting TDs, who all attended the event.
‘I feel a bit of a fraud here,’ said FG TD Jim Daly, addressing the audience. ‘I was shocked to discover there was no funding given to this service.’
He added that he ‘sincerely hoped’ he would be able to secure funding for Lisheens, and that his Dail colleagues would join him in that endeavour. ‘We will be your voice in Dublin,’ he said.
He added that Skibbereen now had a ‘hat-trick’ of community-up achievements – from the Ludgate hub, to the Skibbereen rowers, to Lisheens House.
From the moment he arrived at the offices, he felt ‘warmth and a great welcome’, and he was delighted to see that a room which had allowed so many people to air their views in the past – through the newspaper’s pages – was now another forum for people to express their feelings.
Dunmanway native Mick Kearns said Lisheens was borne out of tragedy in Noreen’s own family, but now something positive was being created.
‘We live in a very beautiful place here in West Cork, but none of us is immune from the tragedies of life,’ said Mick, who thanked Sean Mahon of The Southern Star for the space to begin ‘a new chapter’ in the print room’s life.
‘This is a non-judgemental, strictly confidential service,’ said Mick, and he thanked the people of West Cork who helped fundraise for it.
Noreen Murphy said the building was evidence of the true sense of the word ‘community’, and a community that believed in her vision, which took shape
at her kitchen table, through her own personal tragedy.
‘We need to break the taboo and stigma that surrounds mental health,’ she said, and said there needed to be more support for people suffering, and also for the families and children of those who live with people with mental health issues.
‘We want to give people the time and tools to get on with their lives and live them to the full,’ she said. ‘Thank you all for believing in my vision,’ she added.
Sean Mahon of The Southern Star said the service was ‘important and vital’ and hoped the stigma of mental health was beginning to go, thanks in part to places like Lisheens, and he offered continued support to the service.
Rev John Ardis said that through his work he comes into contact with a lot of people who have mental health issues, and that it was great to now be able to refer them to ‘this very welcoming space’.
Deputy Margaret Murphy O’Mahony (FF) said there was a ‘feelgood factor’ in the building and it was great that people no longer had to travel to the city for support. ‘Jim, Michael (Collins) and myself will lobby very hard for funding for this,’ she said. Deputy Collins said he was ‘not a bit shocked’ that there was no government funds for Lisheens because mental health needed to be treated by the government ‘the same as any other health issue’ and currently that was not the case.
He said that ever since his election, he wears a ‘take care, help is there’ wristband and he congratulated Mick and Noreen on their work to date.
Ray Cullen of Talk to Tom in Wexford described his own battles with depression after a debilitating accident many years ago, and the death of his nephew through suicide.
Although just a few years in operation, his organisation has trained 2,500 people without any government funding and he hoped Lisheens would adopt a similar model.
John Lonergan, who cut the ribbon to officially open the offices, reminded people to be good to themselves and banish the negativity. Listening is a huge gift to bestow on others, he said, and he never met an ‘all-bad’ person, even in all his years working in Mountjoy prison, so there is good to be found in everyone.
‘To find humanity in others, you need to find the humanity in yourself first,’ he said. ‘Reach out and don’t judge, because every single person is fragile and vulnerable at different stages of their lives.’
Keep smiling, he advised, because smiles ‘break down barriers’, he said, adding: ‘And it’s the cheapest way to improve your looks!’
He jokingly told Noreen Murphy not to worry about any debt that may be incurred in the future, because ‘when you are in debt, there is tremendous goodwill towards you! The worst thing that can happen Lisheens House is to have surplus money!’ he said.
He said he hoped the name Southern Star would remain over the door because each and everyone passing through the doors was a ‘star’. Every achievement in the world began with someone saying: ‘I’ll give it a go’, he said, and we should ignore the old phrase that ‘self praise is no praise’ because we should all praise ourselves, and each other, every day.
Speaking afterwards to The Southern Star, he said that modern life brought a strong sense of isolation and that in days gone by, people were much more like to ‘go visiting’ and have a social life. ‘Very often, there is no connection, no sense of belonging now,’ he said, so places like Lisheens should be encouraged and supported.