January 2021 Newsletter


The Light of Grow Mental Health

By a proud member of the Kanturk Group

In these cold dark nights, we look for the light. In these uncertain times, we look for the light even more. The light for me and thousands of other members is the Community of Grow. With meetings cancelled, we formed a different kind of community on Zoom. Not with the warm embrace, we used to greet each other with but now a virtual hug instead.

The amount of Grow members who told me without the online option of meeting with fellow growers, this current struggle would become unbearable. In Grow, people care deeply for each other; a phone call a text message can make all the difference to a Grow member.

The Grow program also sustains us in this time of darkness and despair, but this despair will lift, and the light that Grow provides us will continue to be there whatever the season.


Team Grow – Our Heroes!

Public Representatives


Over the month of December, some of our members and staff proudly came forward to share their stories with the public and highlight the vital support that Grow Mental Health offers those who are struggling.

We know this was no easy feat. As challenging as it can be to speak to one person about mental health problems, it is a great step forward to talk to a group in our weekly support sessions. Deciding to then share on a national stage is a giant leap for any person and we couldn’t be more impressed by the bravery and determination of these members.

From National radio interviews to national and regional publications, the voices of our Growers were heard and read and they resonated far and wide. Their stories were shared throughout the country by thousands of people who were truly touched and inspired.

The following members and staff, in their own ways, successfully carried out Step 12: We carried Grow’s message to others in need and for that we commend them:



Alan Kinsella

Beginner Grower

Alan spoke candidly to Oliver Callan on The Ryan Tubridy Show about his journey of recovery on December 14th. He was also interviewed by Humans of Dublin and his article became the highest viewed on the site as soon as it was posted!This is his story:

“I tried cocaine on a college trip when I was 18. I thought I would give it a try, sure look! What bad could happen? This single decision started a cycle that lasted up until I was 25. I was surprised to realise that it took away all my inadequacies, my low self-esteem and lack of worldliness, character issues that I didn’t even realise I lacked before. It showed me a better version of myself for short periods of time. It soon became a weekly thing. Friday 6pm, going out, having a beer or two and it would follow a line or two. Nobody knew what was going on. I stayed clean during the week and only did it on Friday nights. I was fully functional and I never went into debt. About two years ago, I was starting to get into fitness. It was a weird period because I was still drinking excessively and would take cocaine. I would find myself every Saturday afternoon lying in bed with a hangover searching google for: ‘Health benefits of quitting alcohol and drugs.’ – but despite this, I would continue using them every Friday. Things really came to a head in 2018 when I had some problems in work which led to increased drink and drug use. I felt so alone and was constantly in my own head telling myself how much of a fuck up I was! I hated everything about myself and the person I’d become. I spent evenings at home on my own sniffing coke. When the new year came in 2019, I decided to start on a sobriety journey and began training for my second marathon. After having some low days in early lockdown, I decided to reach out for help. I started attending mental help support groups with Grow Mental Health and I am now working on their recovery program. A few weeks ago, I shared my story with my group and the support and understanding I received has given me the courage to share it publicly. It did take a lot for me to put myself forward and say that I am not okay, that I needed help; but the benefits of this decision have changed my life.”

Listen to Alan on The Ryan Tubridy Show
See Alan’s story on Humans of Dublin

Christina O’Neill

Grow Group Support Worker

Readers of Humans of Dublin were blown away by the remarkable story of Christina O’Neill and it had an unbelievable response on social media.This is her story:

“I was driving home with my three kids. They were fast asleep on the back seat when I felt it again. This big hole in my chest opened up again and I couldn’t bear it anymore. By this time, I was regularly self-harming, but it wasn’t working anymore. The tension didn’t stop building inside me. There was this road home; a straight road with a corner and a wall at the end. My mom and dad were sick and getting old. They would not be able to look after my children. I could not leave them with their abusive alcoholic dad, because I knew he would ruin them altogether. It seemed that the safest thing was to bring them with me and this was the right moment. I floored the car, tears falling down my face and I just kept looking at my kids in the mirror. In the last second, by the grace of God, my foot came off the pedal and I barely made that corner… As I came around, I was scared to death, but that hole in my chest was still there. When we got home, I acted as normal. The kids went straight to bed. My husband was in the living room. When you are in this kind of state, you are your own most hated enemy. I told myself that if I was a good person, my life would be different. I would not be in an abusive relationship. My kids would not have all these issues in school. I would be a better daughter, a better mother, and a better wife… I tried so hard to be there for everyone that I never actually attended to myself. I wanted to punish myself for what have done. The negative thoughts in my head became unbearable once again and I needed to release. Two days later, I ended up in a psychiatric unit. In there, I got to know about Grow Mental Health. Getting to know them was the first step of my long recovery. I learnt how to re-programme my thought patterns to be able to build a better and more compassionate self. I am now divorced. I am involved with a local school the parish and I volunteer with Grow weekly. I am certain that would not be here today without their program and my group and for that, I will be forever grateful.”


See Christine’s story on Humans of Dublin

Wayne Kavanagh

Seasoned Grower

After gaining over 1K views on YouTube alone for his interview on Step 2 of Grow’s 12 Steps of Recovery & Growth, Seasoned Grower Wayne Kavanagh was interviewed by Humans of Dublin and it received a phenomenal reaction from readers.This is his story:

“I can’t even remember a time when I didn’t have issues with anxiety or panic attacks. I suffered with my mental health most of my life. There was a time when I had 27 panic attacks in one day. It feels like having a heart attack. I would lose control of my body. Sometimes, I just start to tremble. Other times, when it’s more severe, my legs would just go from under me and I’d collapse. I could be in a Zoo or a shopping centre… It happened once at a football match. People were stepping over me thinking I was drunk. In the beginning, I tried to cope by myself and went down all the wrong rabbit holes of alcohol and drugs, but they all failed me pretty soon. I have visited many doctors in my life and seen them opening books and flicking through pages trying to put a more accurate label on what is wrong with me, but that never really made a difference in my experience. After my third suicide attempt, I had to visit my psychiatric doctor regularly and in the waiting room, I came across a Grow Mental Health leaflet. The nurse there suggested that I should give them a call. With Grow, you start slow. First step: Leave the house for a walk. For some people, this may sound ridiculous, but when you are in that state, this can be the hardest thing to do. At the time, the curtains were closed all day and I only left my room to go to the bathroom. I can understand people who are going into AA or NA and literarily have to be carried in the door. They want help so much that they make it to the door, but they can’t get the courage to step in. I was that person at the door of Grow when I first went there. But from then on, my experience couldn’t have been more positive. With Grow, you are in a group with people facing similar challenges. Grow creates an environment where we feel safe sharing our own experiences and talk about your own coping mechanisms. Getting to know the insights of others and meeting my group regularly was one of the greatest forms of help I have ever received. I am not free of challenges, but with Grow, I acquired a toolbox that gave me back the control over my life.”

See Wayne’s story on Human’s of Dublin

Finola O’Callaghan

Area Coordinator

Our Area Coordinator in the Southern Region, Finola O’Callaghan, spoke to Dermot and Dave (Today FM) on their Christmas Eve show and did an absolutely excellent job. With approximately 183,000 daily listeners, it is safe to say Finola connected with many people and reminded them that Grow Mental Health is a support service that can be availed of by anyone in times of need.

Listen to Finola on Dermot and Dave

Our Message of Reconnection 

Grow’s Christmas Campaign resonates throughout the world

Our Christmas Campaign, proudly supported by Expressway, launched on December 14th with the unveiling of a Grow Mental Health bus and a powerful message of reconnection.
Minister for Mental Health, Mary Butler TD, joined CEO of Grow, Michele Kerrigan, Eleanor Farrell of Expressway and new Grow member Alan Kinsella for the launch, which proved to be a positive and meaningful collaboration for all.
For the 12 days of Christmas, both Grow and Expressway coordinated a social media campaign which included a post per day on the #12CallsofChristmas campaign. Competitions, personal stories and reminders to reconnect with others were promoted far and wide and the response was amazing.
Along with the support and encouragement of Minister Butler, the National Chair for Grow in Australia, Lesley van Schoubroeck, described our campaign as “very impressive” and shared the launch on social media- sending ripples of the work that we are doing throughout the globe!
Over the past month, awareness about Grow Mental Health in general has escalated more than ever.
For the next six months at least, the Grow bus will continue to cruise throughout the nation, spreading our important message of reconnection with others.
December was a whirlwind month and now that we are stepping into 2021, the snow is settling on all that we have achieved. We look forward to a new year with Grow Mental Health taking centre stage in the hearts and minds of the public we serve.

Click to donate

Public Speaking Skills Course
Grow Mental Health is hoping to launch a Public Speaking Skills course in January for volunteers.
This will be a more informal version of Toastmasters using Grow personal testimonies and Grow literature as presentation material. If you would like to improve your public speaking skills for work purposes or promoting the work of Grow Mental Health (We carried the message to others in need), please email [email protected] for further details.


By Maria Mulligan, Eastern Region


The word “Inspire” comes from the Latin ‘inspirae’, meaning to breathe into. For me it is the definition of one of the most important aspects of our Grow Community.When I came to Grow breathing seemed to be my enemy. It was the function of that kept me alive, and at that time being alive meant unrelenting terror, despair and darkness. But slowly, my Group helped me to believe “If there was hope for anyone, there was hope for me too.”

Through listening to member’s testimonies, I realised that I was not an anomaly, that other people knew the suffering of mental illness. Most importantly, I heard that they came back from it, like the phoenix rising from the ashes. Being introduced to Personal Value was like an unconditional embrace, one I had never experienced before.

My demons told me I was defective, inadequate- they told me I had to reach a certain criteria to be of value to myself and the world around me. Needless to say with this reasoning the “criteria” is always out of reach.

My eureka moment came when I understood my personal value was inherent, it did not have to be “earned”, and could not be stolen from me. Whenever I find myself falling into the old habits of self condemnation, I remind myself, “God does not make junk”. There is no greater Inspiration than to inspire someone to live. This is, among other things, what I have received from Grow.

They have held me, consoled me, gave me hope when I could not find it for myself. In turn I hope that I, in my own small way can do the same for Growers old and new. By breathing life, hope, compassion and Love we are carrying Grow’s message to others in need.

IT support for Growers
There is an organisation called GenerationTech (used to be called Covid-19 tech) that offers phone support for those over 65 with any IT problem they might have, from downloading Zoom to fixing problems with their Saorview Box etc.
The service is aimed to support over 65’s but, thanks to consultation from our Galway AC Alan Keaveney, they are open to supporting Growers of any age. If a member has an iPad but doesn’t know how to install an App like Zoom, then an Apple-knowledgeable tutor can phone them back to help.

This service supports:
Tablets, phones, PCs, software, other hardware and facilities such as printers, digital cameras, Alexa, Google Assistant, smart heating devices, smart door bells and home security systems, any other smart gadgets, routers, WiFi issues; generally all the usual tech gadgets you’d find in a household. Software issues, such as logging into accounts, configuring video calls, accessing and installing apps and social media accounts; all kinds of software that keeps you in touch with your loved ones

Contact:  01-9633288 for a call back. They are open 8am-8pm Monday to Friday. On Saturday and Sunday you can leave a message. Click the blue button below to access the IT Generation website.

Note: This is a completely FREE service. You will NEVER be asked for your FINANCIAL OR CREDIT CARD DETAILS.

Get IT support

The Curse of Gratitude

By Tim Percy


Gratitude, Gratitude,
Oft’ forgotten
For the simple
To the profound.

The dual carriage way
Of feelings,
Grateful to give
Grateful to receive.

A path to gratitude is
To be thankful for
Small mercies.
A cliché to be sure.

Oh where is gratitude
When times are tough?
When months to years
is rough.

It’s in the small things
Forgotten by the large,
For the bright light begins
With a spark.
With a spark.


Pilot project launched in Galway

Some Galway Growers have been involved in its planning for the past 5 years


The HSE Community Healthcare West office of Mental Health Engagement and Recovery in collaboration with Galway Local Forum are delighted to announce the imminent opening of a new out-of-hours mental health support for Galway City and surrounding areas.

The project, which is currently being delivered online due to Covid-19 restrictions, was developed by members of the Galway community who have lived experience of mental health challenges and understand the need for out-of-hours support for people experiencing emotional distress.

As noted by Danni Burke, an active member of the Galway Forum “I am excited to see the café we have been working on for a long time coming to fruition. There were others before me that were involved in getting the project to this stage. I would have benefited greatly from a cafe like this when I was unwell. A safe, relaxed environment with understanding and compassionate people can do wonders for positive mental health outcomes.”

The Galway Community Café will be located at Mr Waffle and will be open from 6.30pm to 11.00 pm Thursday to Sunday evenings. The Community Cafe will be a safe place for individuals to come and chat over a cup of tea with Community Cafe staff who have personal experience of mental health challenges.

The café group hope that this pilot project will show the approach of service users, health services, and the community co-producing services, and lead the way for the development of peer-led out-of-hours services across the country.

The project team and forum members are grateful to funders and community supporters, stating “We sincerely thank Atlantic Philanthropies for funding the pilot, and Mr. Kevin Nugent for donating the use of his café after normal working hours. Without their support this service would not have been possible. We would also like to thank HSE staff past and present as well as community members who have worked tirelessly to make this project a reality.”

For members of the community interested in getting involved in mental health service development and initiatives like the Galway Community Café, please contact Maria McGoldrick, Area Lead for Mental Health Engagement & Recovery at [email protected].

Learn More

A Helping Hand

By James Corcoran, Mayo member

All people need to be treated with dignity
But sadly some have no dignity
We must help homeless people
To get shelter, food and clothes

People of good must help people
With addictions, disabilities and
Financial problems

There is so much poverty in third
World countries
It is great to see so many volunteers
From lots of countries getting people of
Third world countries clean water
Suitable accommodation and medical and
Educational facilities
So they may use their facilities in a
Positive way

We all have our problems
That we must understand
We all deserve a helping hand

Regional Updates


Congratulations to Síle Tracey, who has been appointed Manager of Fundraising Marketing and Communications. Síle has been working as a Fundraising and Communications Officer for over a year and has done an exceptional job in her role. We wish her all the very best in her new position and know that she will bring an abundance of dedication, innovation and vision to the work she does.

Art for the Heart is a virtual Art Exhibition showcasing the creative talents of Growers Australia-wide. Launched during Grow Victoria’s Annual Branch Conference via Zoom, Growers from around the country joined in on virtual art tour. The exhibition features a range of creativity from painting, videos, poetry and crafts. Congratulations to all who submitted work and to those who received honorary mentions in the Best Exhibitions. Any members in Ireland who are interested in art are welcome to view the gallery by clicking the button below.

View Art for the Heart Gallery

Call for Local Art
Inspired by the Grow Australia art exhibition above, any artists or photographers here in Grow Ireland are encouraged to submit photos of their work to be included in the monthly newsletter.

If your photo or art is in any way connected to mental health or is therapeutic in some way, please send it to [email protected] with a title or caption and we would be happy to exhibit it in future instalments of the newsletter.


By Jean McSorley


Intermittent and Precious
When you catch it
Treasure it
Bask in it
For it too has it’s own life


Share your Story

Take part in the second half of Grow’s YouTube series

The second half of Grow’s YouTube series will start recording this month and we are looking for Seasoned Growers to take part.

Based on the 12 Steps of Recovery & Growth, the second part will focus on Steps 6 to 12. An interview will take place on Zoom on each step with one member speaking on each.
We are seeking members who are comfortable sharing their story on video in an open, honest and clear way. Candidates will be selected based on their suitability- some may be better suited to audio podcast or print media and this option will be provided to them if appropriate.

If interested in sharing your story in some form or another, please contact: [email protected] or [email protected] for further details.

We are unbelievably proud of the members who have been brave enough to share their stories with the world so far and we salute them for living and breathing the Grow Program in their daily lives. Their stories are an inspiration to all who have the pleasure of hearing them.

For those of you who have yet to tune in, here are the first 6 videos:


Step 1 with Mike Watts:

Step 2 with Wayne Kavanagh:

Step 3 with Seamus Kelly:

Step 4 with Andy McLelland:

Step 5 with Christine Fitzgerald:

Step 6 with Zameel Brierley:


New Year’s Resolution

By Caroline Crotty


At this time, the start of a new year, we might vow to make New Year’s Resolutions to be healthier. We might plan to reduce our intake of sugar/coffee/alcohol or join a gym/class/club or change our job/car/house or learn a language/skill/craft etc. In truth, our great intentions are endless!  However, something which positively influences obesity, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, some cancers, bone and joint diseases is within our reach – REGULAR PHYSICAL ACTIVITY.

I am not a medic, but even I know exercise improves our overall wellbeing and quality of life. The benefits are far-reaching. Physical activity has consistently been shown to be associated with improved physical health, life satisfaction, cognitive function and psychological wellbeing.

People who regularly exercise, when compared to those who don’t, show slower rates of age-related memory and cognitive decline and everyone wants to stay as sharp as possible for as long as possible. Exercise helps strengthen our heart and improves its functioning and not only do our lungs benefit from exercise, our bones do too. Physical activity can help reduce stress levels whilst improving self-esteem.

From what I know, to improve our heart health, we need about 2.5 hours weekly, of moderate-intensity physical activity. If we can invest more time, even better! Moderate-intensity activity increases heart-rate, gets us sweaty and breathing more quickly. That’s the ideal. A friend told me one time that when she started to run she was told that the correct pace allows the runner to be able to hold a conversation whilst running and I think that’s a great gauge for any exercise – we might be panting a bit but we are still able to talk!

To make healthy changes we must rethink busy schedules. Finding time might be hard, but ten minutes of non-stop walking three times a day is achievable. Every minute you move is valuable.

Small active changes include taking the stairs, walking around your house inside/outside, jumping on the spot, dancing, parking the car in a space farthest from the shop front-door or walking during work breaks. Getting on the floor and stretching every so often throughout the day helps you to stop taking yourself too seriously!

If you have never walked, perhaps walk for three minutes away from your house, turn around and walk the three minutes home – any minute spent walking is better than no minute. Try to select an activity that is suitable for your fitness level right now, until it improves.

Regular weight-bearing exercise can:
  • Help prevent several chronic diseases and reduce the risk of premature death.
  • Improve mood and confidence.
  • Reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.
  • Build muscle and strengthen bones (and help prevent osteoporosis).
  • Increase energy levels and keep us feeling energised throughout the day.
  • Improve brain function, protect memory and thinking skills.
  • Help with study because exercise promotes the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain.
  • Improve sleep.
  • Help with pain management.

There are many benefits of moving our bodies, but exercise is only one part of safeguarding our long-term health – diet, alcohol, stress, sleep, cigarettes all take their toll. This new year, really try to get your body moving!

For more see www.carolinecrotty.ie


Mental Health Supports


Face-to-face services are limited at the moment because of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak. But a number of HSE services are providing online and phone services.

These are listed below and include:

  • online counselling and support
  • phone support
  • text support

Access Support

Grow’s 5-level Pandemic Plan

By the Return to Groups and Work Committee

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