Sligo Mother Urges People to Seek Mental Health Support from Organisations Like GROW
A Sligo woman is urging people to seek support if they are struggling with any aspect of their mental health and wellbeing.
Sligo mother ‘Ann’ (not her real name) has highlighted the importance of seeking support from organisations like GROW. GROW holds free weekly mental health support meetings in St. Michael’s Family Life Centre in Church Hill, Sligo and is among the partner organisations of the Green Ribbon campaign.
Ann explains how, prior to attending GROW, she found herself struggling to cope and contemplating suicide.
“I was isolated and cut off from my friends and family. I had two children who had additional needs that placed extra demands on me.
“As each year went by, I found it harder and harder to cope as the demands increased. I did not have anyone to turn to. I began to think that taking my life would save me from the continual loneliness, pretence, loss and pain I was feeling and all the future loss and pain from an increasing complexity of demands.
“There was judgement from family and friends when I fell short of having the perfect home and perfectly performing children. I found the world to be a very unforgiving place to individuals or families that have any human flaws or frailties. I decided that I was a failure,” she says.
At her lowest ebb, Ann felt unable to discuss her situation with family, friends or work colleagues.
“I knew that talking about this with family, friends and acquaintances from work or home in nice polite company is not the “done” thing. Anytime I hinted at difficulty, other people would clam up, change the subject and avoid you in future.
“I ended up feeling more even more of a failure. The embarrassment and humiliation of opening up to people you thought you could trust, only to have them subtlety reject you was very painful. I felt a terrible idiot for not being able to keep up appearances and have the perfect family,” she explains.
Down through the years, Ann had seen an advert for GROW in the local newspaper and registered the details. In the meantime, a support worker suggested a six week relaxation class in St. Michael’s House in the Family Life Centre in Sligo.
“When there, I saw that GROW meetings are also held there. When the relaxation course was finished, I decided to try GROW. I took my courage in my hands and walked through the door the first night. I was immediately welcomed and the other people were friendly to me. It took me some weeks to relax into it but all that time I was determined that I would make this work for me and my family,” she says.
GROW groups are confidential and follow a 12-step mental health recovery programme focused on practical tasks, mutual understanding, shared experience and support.
“As time went by, I relaxed and it felt easy to be the company of the group. I didn’t have to keep up the pretence that everything is wonderful and life is amazing. All the other members of the group had struggled with life in one way or another. I saw what the GROW 12-step programme had done for them. They were definitely coping better than me,” Ann highlights.
Describing GROW as a ‘lifeline’, Ann explains how, with the support of the weekly group, she felt able to journey to mental health recovery.
“The other group members listen without judgement and give me the moral support I need to pick myself up and keep going. We also have an Area Coordinator or Field Worker in attendance. I have benefitted enormously from their guidance on the application of the GROW Programme. It is a powerful resource to have access to,” she says.
While life continues to be tough at times, Ann emphasises that there are also good times.
“I have made progress on appreciating the good things that I have. I have not looked back since I joined the GROW group. I have avoided slipping further into a downward spiral and I have more resilience and coping skills. I am a better parent and role model for my children. I still have to take it one minute at a time on the bad days and still slip into destructive negative thinking and behaviour, but since I joined GROW I cope with these setbacks better,” she says.
Ann urges others to reach out and seek support of organisations like GROW.
“I cannot recommend it highly enough for those who are struggling with life. Don’t struggle alone and don’t leave it as long as I did to seek help. In GROW, we say ‘you alone can do it, but you can’t do it alone’ and the ‘recovery of each individual helps with the recovery of society as a whole’,” she adds.
GROW is Ireland’s largest community-based mental health organisation and has been helping people on the road to mental health recovery for almost 50 years. GROW holds 120 peer support group meetings in communities across Ireland each week including two meetings each week in St. Michael’s Family Life Centre.