Aaron O'Neill founded Let's Talk Mental Health because he had anxiety and depression since early childhood. He had a lot of tough times in life, a lot of loss, hardship, and mental and physical abuse (not sexual). This is not a pleasant story, but it ends well.
What is the group, and how did it come about?
The group is for sufferers of mental distress. I have 4 team members, all whom have been part of the group since the start, they are sufferers themselves, and have come through a lot, and now are able to part their experience with members of the group.
It came about as I was attending a local mental health support group, but the numbers were always low. People were getting as far as the door, then turning around and going home. As much as we’d like to think the stigma is gone, it’s not 100% gone.
I realized that I had a way that I could help others, in a private and secure way. I worked for a conference company, and it used the most secure platform available. I managed to secure a good rate with them, and this allowed me to give out free phone (or toll free) numbers to everyone. I have a host control panel so I can mute lines, dismiss guests if needed, and nobody except me can see who’s on the call. We have guest speakers on the call quite often, who tell us about what they have been through, and some of these people are recognized names and happy to put their name to our group.
We focus on positivity, sure we look at mental health and all that we’ve been through, but we focus on what can come, what you can be, empowering you in the most positive ways to help yourself, to reach out and ask for it. That’s recovery!
This idea was very new to Ireland, but it wasn’t long before we built up 350 group members, and some offline also. We advertised in local papers giving contact details so that I could issue the Thursday call details to people who needed the help, and may not have internet, or may be elderly and they’re not using social media.
We have been involved in a lot of events in Ireland, and worked behind the scenes for events like "The Voice of Ireland", where we had counsellors working with a few of the participants to help them with nerves and anxiety.
To date, we have worked out that we have helped a total of 2,400 people.
You mentioned guest speakers, could you tell us more about them, and also I believe you have some big followers?
Yes we have some regular guest speakers such as Liam Kennedy, who is a fantastic football player, and now works as a motivational speaker, and motivates the group with his talks and also his poetry.
We have Linda Creedon, who’s just qualified as a nurse. She had a rough childhood and was bullied to the extent that she wouldn’t attend her own Debs. She has since gone on to take part in Miss Ireland, and works as a model, as well as being a nurse, and a motivational speaker.
We have Valerie Farragher, who talks about alcohol addiction, and is doing massive work in Ireland to help people with Dual Diagnosis, Depression and Alcohol Addiction.
We also have some big name supporters such as Glen Hansard from the Frames, Elton John, Neville Southall, PJ Gallagher, Pat Shortt (both big name Irish comedians), and several others.
What lies ahead for Let’s Talk Mental Health?
Recently we had to move the group to a new page, simply because we wanted to change the privacy on the group on Facebook from Secret to Closed. We had too many people in the group, and Facebook wouldn’t allow us to do that so we’ve moved to a new page.
We also want to run a poster campaign by getting laminated posters sent out to rural areas in Ireland, letting them know we exist, and to get in touch, there’s no shame in it, and that there is a group out there that really cares about you, genuinely!
As I have said we have touched the lives of 2,400 people, not only in Ireland but in the UK, Spain, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, and the US. Out of everyone we have dealt with, I am proud to say that we have never lost a member.
How is the group funded?
We rely completely on donations to fund the group, we do this by asking those who have it to contribute when they can. We don’t put pressure on people as the whole idea is that the service is free. We run raffles and we are running a Christmas raffle this year on 12th December which will keep the group going for at least another 6 months.
We are going to have a complete overhaul of our website at LetsTalkMentalHealth.com, get our group more in the public domain and continue to help people as best as we can.
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Aingeal Rose & Ahonu
Special Guest: Aaron O'Neill.
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