JULY 2024 Newsletter – Friendship

July 2024 Newsletter:
July 30th is International Friendship Day! Friends are fun. Friends come and go. What do friends have to do with our mental health and the Grow Mental Health Program? Read on to hear about the power and pitfalls of friendship on our mental health journeys. Plus a round-up of our June GO YELLOW fundraising campaign and more on the Grow National Weekend.  Enjoy! You can reach us on our social media platforms and by email [email protected]

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You can support Grow Mental Health and our vision of an Ireland where no one needs to navigate mental health challenges or life’s struggles alone by making a donation now.

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Our Grow Mental Health National Weekend takes place between September 20th and 22nd at the Killeshen Hotel in Portlaoise. The theme this year is 'Telling Your Story" as we explore the power of sharing our personal stories and hearing those of others. There are a few rooms still available which can be booked through the following link: https://app.tickettailor.com/event/ev_4184878
THE HOBBIT - A Tale of Friendship Healing Trauma
By Lucy, Grow Group Member, Online

Bilbo Baggins' story begins his time in The Hobbit with an unadventurous life of good food and a warm hearth but not much connection.
He is awakened to the multiplicities of life by Gandalf who makes him part of a quest to win back the homeland of the dwarfs of the Lonely Mountain - a homeland destroyed by Smaug the dragon.

One particular theme that extends throughout The Hobbit (and into the Lord of the Rings) is that of friendship. It is the bonds of friendship that Gandalf, Bilbo, and the dwarfs share that ensure the quest is completed and that the line of Durin is restored to the mountain.

The building of new friendships and the continuation of old ones layer The Hobbit with the meaning and presence of love for and trust in one another. It is through this mutual building of love and trust that helps, aids, and guides the dwarfs through the trauma of losing their homeland. In the Grow Program Book, it is said that ‘Friendship is a love of intimate sharing between mature equals…[and] a friend is one whom you like and admire and in whose company you are profoundly at home.’ (p21).

J. R. R. Tolkien uses the desolation of Smaug and the dragons ruthless desolation of the dwarves of Erebor as a metaphor for the trauma we can experience in life. The quest and the comradery that builds between Bilbo, Gandalf, and the dwarfs is an example of how friendship can help to heal wounds and soothe the sting of trauma. Friendship finds and makes us equal and whole and it is the ‘special key to mental health’ that allows us to be ‘healed and harmonised by responding to the offer of true friendship. Bilbo Baggins' measure of maturity is his ‘capacity to be a true friend’ and so the tale of The Hobbit is one based on friendship and the idea of ‘To have a friend be a friend.’
Our GO YELLOW Fundraising Campaign:
A look back at the brightest days of the year

Once again, Ireland was awash in yellow for our annual GO YELLOW! fundraising campaign between June 20th and 23rd. This year, people were asked to find an activity that sparked their joy and turn it into a fundraising event with friends and family. The creativity that ensued was incredible. Folks really go behind the sentiment of GO YELLOW! and created events like walks, picnics, coffee mornings, and sea swims. All across the nation, people made a huge effort to spread the word about our Grow support groups and the supports we offer all over Ireland and online. 

We want to extend a massive thank you to everyone who was involved from creating events, promoting the campaign, getting out in your yellow, and shaking buckets. A special mention goes to our friends at Weltec Engineering who raised a whopping €4,500 for GO YELLOW! with their Mondello 24 hour cycle 👏👏. 

There were too many GO YELLOW events to mention here. Donations are still coming in and the event will stay open until the middle of July for anyone who would like to support us. Go to grow.ie/goyellow to make a donation.  Click on the image below to get a flavour of the sunny celebrations. 
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By Holly, Grow Member, Southern Online Group

For years, the concept of friendship was a highly charged topic for me. Words like: judgment, hierarchy, and exploitation would come to mind.

It is an understatement to say I’ve been tempered by my pre-adult friendships. They changed how I viewed my role in friendships and even some of my core self-beliefs.

I became a “lone wolf” as a way of protecting myself from further negative experiences. It was a self-belief I carried for over two decades. However, it enabled my continued isolation and fear surrounding friendships.

Since joining Grow Mental Health, I feel a real shift in my attitude towards friendship. For the first time in over two decades, my mind has opened to the possibility that friendships can and should be nourishing and joyful. Also, and more importantly; I have begun to believe that I am worthy of such friendships.

I still regularly need to remind myself that not all friendships are toxic or “unsafe”. No man is an island. This colloquialism makes me think of the light-hearted 2002 film, “About a Boy”. For all its surface-level humour, it packs in some profound messages about everyone’s need of friendship and connection. No matter how introverted or “different” one is, we are social beings and we need connection with others to be happy and healthy.

There are countless benefits to friendship. Happy hormones, better problem solving, self-growth, increasing confidence, relieving stress and mitigating depression, among others. I read somewhere that regular socialising with others can even reduce the potential of developing dementia. That to me, says it all!

With my negative history of friendship, it is understandable I have difficulty trusting others, and myself in relationships. The safe and gentle environment of Grow has been perfect for unlearning negative attitudes towards friendships and re-learning positive ones. It is a great space for putting on one’s training wheels and dipping a toe gently back into friendships.

Many of my peers can relate to my experiences and that has allowed me to relax into the process of learning how to make friends. There is a shared vulnerability, empathy and acceptance. All the ingredients of a healthy friendship. There is no pressure to be anyone but oneself.

When it comes to cultivating meaningful friendships, I ask myself two questions.

1. How do I know what a healthy friendship looks like?

2. What do I value in friendships?

For me, genuine friendships feel natural, safe and equal. They make me feel good about myself. There is mutual sharing, maturity, and respect, regardless of agreement. I feel seen and heard, as my authentic self. There is no alternative agenda outside of the friendship itself. Friendships need a time commitment and good communication to keep them alive, as well as honesty and confidentially to flourish. And above all; empathy is what I value most in a friend.

These answers have, and continue to help guide me. Friendships are individual after all. Not everyone will like everyone else, and that’s perfectly okay. I try to remind myself of this fact when things don’t work out. I will never let the rejection of others affect my self-worth again.

By Jonathan, Grow Group Member, Eastern Region

The appeal of a prison escape story is universal. And is not the darkness of a depression or the frightening world of psychosis a lonely prison too? We all long to be free.
Shawshank Redemption is my favourite movie. I must have seen it a dozen times. I love the friendship between the two inmates, Tim Robbins character Andy and Morgan Freeman’s character Red. Does friendship redeem us? I looked up the word “redemption”. This is what I found: The action of saving or being saved from error or sin. The action of making amends for a wrong or injury. To fulfill a purpose. To give Hope. **Spoiler alert – I will give the bare bones of the plot.** I still encourage you to watch the film. Like friendship it will do your heart good. 

The film starts in 1947, Andy is convicted of murder and is sent to Shawshank Prison in Maine, USA. A friendship grows between Andy and Red, also convicted for murder. Red is a guy that can get you things! The friendship starts when Andy asks Red to get him a little rock hammer. Andy is a “rock hound” and loves rocks and geology and would like to continue his interest. Red notes, amused, when he gets the tiny hammer it would take 600 years to tunnel under the prison walls!

Prison is no fairytale. And the first two years nearly break Andy as the “Sisters” attack and rape him. Sometimes Andy can fight them off. Then Red gets Andy on a work detail to tar a roof. Work detail has perks. Andy nearly gets thrown off the roof but saves himself by offering to set up tax relief on an inheritance for the guard. (Andy was a bank manager on the outside.) For payment he gets two beers each for his friends. Drinking the beers the prisoners feel they could be tarring their own roof. Soon Andy does the tax returns for all the guards and the prison warden too. He is finally protected from the 'sisters'. He is safe for now and finally shows his character. He pesters the state with letters every week for two years to eventually get an annual donation of funds and books, giving Shawshank the best prison library in New England. He breaks in to the warden's office and plays a beautiful opera song over the prison intercom - something too beautiful in that ugly place. He gets a week in solitary for that stunt.

The Warden is crooked and gets Andy to cook the books and clean his dirty money. Then Tommy, a young thief comes to Shawshank. Andy educates him for his High School exam. Here we find Andy is innocent after all! In a previous prison Tommy shared a cell with Elmo Blatch who boasted about killing a golf pro and his beautiful lover and that it was pinned on the women’s husband, a young bank manager.

Andy goes to Warden Norton to ask for a retrial with this new witness and evidence. Norton is having none of it. He needs Andy to do the dirty laundry. He throws Andy in solitary for two months to break him and has Tommy, the witness, murdered. It now appears Andy is a broken depressed man and back doing the warden's books.

His friends are concerned. He’s talking funny. Talks about a town in Mexico call Zihuatanejo on the pacific. And the Mexicans say the Pacific has no memory! That’s were he wants to go. Red says this just a pipe dream and hope can drive a man crazy. Red says he couldn’t make it on the outside and something as big as the pacific would scare him to death. Andy replies to his friend. “You underestimate yourself.” Then in a strange voice Andy whispers that if Red ever gets out to go to a hayfield in Buxton. It has a stone wall and a big oak at the north end. And there under a rock of volcanic glass is buried something. Red promises he would.

His friends discover Andy got a six foot length of rope from the loading dock. They fear suicide. They can keep an eye on him in the day but that night he will be on his own in his cell. That night was the longest night of Red’s life. He fears for his friend. In the morning the prison cell doors open automatically and the prisoners step out. Andy hasn’t stepped out. Red fears the worst. A guard, cursing, goes to Andy’s cell, his face drops and he says “O My God” - The cell is empty! Andy is gone!

Now throughout the movie, in that grey prison of stone, it is the light of friendship that brings life to this story. Especially between Andy and Red. All else here is colourless. We find Andy tunnelled through his cell wall in twenty years with that tiny hammer. His friends miss him. Red laments, “Some birds aren’t meant to be caged, their feathers are too bright and when they fly away the part of you that knows it’s a sin to lock them up does rejoice but still the place you live in is that much more drab and empty that their gone. I guess I miss my friend.”

Some years later Red gets out on Parole. He realises he can’t make it on the outside. He reckons he is institutionalised. He is afraid. If he commits a crime he can go back to prison. Only one thing stops him, a promise he made to his friend. He goes to Buxton and digs under the oak tree. He finds a small tin box. Inside there is lots of money and a letter from Andy. “Come a little further. You remember the town, Zihuatanejo. I could use a good man to get my project on wheels. Remember hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. And a good thing never dies. Your friend Andy.”

by Celia Brett, Grow MH Area Coordinator, Midwest Region

The team in the Midwest pulled out all the stops in Limerick and Clare for this year's GO YELLOW! fundraising campaign and were delighted to have the support of local legends including Feakle GAA, Clare GAA, Sharon Shannon (Yes! The famous Irish musician), and the Clover Rebel Band. The kind folks in Clare GAA  donated advertising space on the big screen for Grow MH for three championship matches in Semple Stadium in Thurles. There was charity match between Feakle and Scarriff GAA with Grow MH in the Midwest as beneficiary. We saw promotional work through social media and storytelling through music. We are so grateful to all these wonderful community-based advocates! I personally had the opportunity to speak about Grow Mental Health to both teams ahead of the charity match, as well as Limerick 95FM and Clare FM radio stations, raising awareness for Grow nationwide and a new meeting in Ennis starting on July 2nd at 2pm.

On the eve of the Summer Solstice, Joan, Administrator for Grow MH in the Midwest, organised a Shanagolden and Foynes Meditation Group. Participants were encouraged to expand their sense of self by fostering a creative spirit all while celebrating the light of the longest day of the year.

Limerick and Clare Grow MH group members along with Grow Midwest Area Coordinators Danielle and Celia (me!) took part in walk & talks, picnics in the park (complete with yellow food items!), coffee meetups, and more meditation & relaxation sessions. Rob, a Midwestern Grow group member, organised a Midsummer Treasure Hunt around the three bridges in Limerick. He promoted the fun-filled event with the help of members and the wider community.  There was walk/run/jog in Doon GAA and an Oola GAA Mothers & Others training session, with all donations once again going to Grow MH services in the Midwest. Our personal wellbeing, both physical and emotional, is deeply connected to the quality of our friendships and partnerships, so these special get togethers can work wonders for our health and happiness.

We want to extend a massive 'Thank You' to everyone who created, promoted, attended, and supported these events. We couldn't have done it without you! These solstice rituals allowed us to linger in the power of the longest, lightest day of the year, giving us an opportunity to revitalize our spirit and reestablish a connection with the natural world and ourselves. Helping at a community fundraising event was a great chance to meet new people and form friendships, offering a chance to meet and collaborate with individuals who have similar interests and values to achieve a common objective.

Recently we experienced the passing four members of Grow in the Midwest. While they couldn't be with us, they were in our thoughts every time we came together for a GO YELLOW event. 

GO YELLOW had the Midwest shining brightly!

By Finola O’Callaghan, Grow MH Area Coordinator, Southern Region

Fitzgerald’s park was again the superb starting point for this year’s Cork City GO YELLOW! Walk. Growers from the Wednesday morning group, Monday night group, Myross Wood Group, and Thursday Morning Online group turned up, all brandishing yellow gear to support this year’s fundraising campaign. Located along the Mardyke and near UCC, Fitzgerald’s park is a beautiful oasis in Cork city centre, surrounded by natural beauty and gorgeous gardens which looked stunning in the Summer Solstice sunshine.

The group strolled along the scenic River Lee, stopping again this year to pose alongside the blossoming yellow roses, blending in beautifully with all the yellow hues in the park’s splendid rose gardens. Continuing along the walkway by the river, the group ambled leisurely up to the Kingsley Hotel to avail of welcome refreshments, sitting out in the sun, taking advantage of the impressive views over the river. Next year’s task will be to bring our togs!

We could not have asked for better weather for our third annual Cork City GO YELLOW Walk & Talk event and as always, it was so lovely to catch up with one another, raise awareness and funds and to carry Grow’s message to others in need.

By Caroline, Grow MH Digital Services Supervisor

On Saturday June 22nd, 2024, fourteen enthusiastic participants gathered at the Little Lantern for a day filled with wellness activities and meaningful connections. The event kicked off with warm scones served in the garden and this gorgeous start set the tone for a day that nourished for both body and soul.

Each participant was paired with a buddy to check in with throughout the day. This initiative was a wonderful way to ensure everyone felt included and cared for. My buddy Kay and I shared some lovely moments, and our bond was sealed with a heartfelt hug as we parted ways.

The first workshop of the day was chair yoga and this session engaged every part of our bodies, leaving us both relaxed and invigorated. We concluded with a simple yet effective ten-deep-breath exercise, which can be done anywhere, anytime. This mindful breathing technique involves tracing the outline of one hand with the index finger of the other, breathing in while tracing up a finger and breathing out while tracing down each finger - swap hands to have ten deep breaths. 

Gertrude's workshop on boundaries followed, offering insightful discussions on the complexities of setting and maintaining personal boundaries. One young participant shared how oversharing can breach boundaries, a perspective that sparked a rich conversation over lunch. The dialogue extended to the challenges of maintaining boundaries with adult children and grandchildren, especially in light of the current housing crisis or when caring for grandchildren.

After lunch, Daniel, a Dungarvan member led us on a coastal walk. Despite the cloudy weather, the rain held off, and we enjoyed learning about the local area's history, artists, and natural environment. Daniel's commentary emphasised the importance of acceptance, even of negative thoughts, and of integrating nature into our daily lives. The walk was a refreshing blend of physical activity and mental relaxation, showcasing the beauty surrounding the Little Lantern.

Upon returning, Daniel shared his experiences of Grow meetings to the attendees, positively highlighting their structure and the positive impact on his life. His story served as a reminder of the importance of community and support networks.

The day concluded with a sound bath workshop, an experience that left participants feeling calm, relaxed, and rejuvenated. We experienced various sounds which created a meditative atmosphere, and many described the session as the closest thing to being asleep while awake. The healing power of sound was evident, as everyone emerged with a sense of peace and connectedness.

The wellness day that was provided by Gertrude with Chris by her side was not only about individual wellness but about fostering a sense of community. The atmosphere was filled with positivity, and no one seemed in a hurry to leave at the end of the day.  

The Go Yellow Dungarvan Wellness Day held at the Little Lantern was a beautiful blend of activities that nurtured mind and body, creating a spiritual connection among participants. It was a day of calm, connection, and personal growth, leaving everyone looking forward to the next gathering.




Grow Mental Health has been the beneficiary of some extremely generous fundraising campaigns lately and we want to extend a huge THANK YOU to every person who ran, cycled, played, and promoted as well as those who supported these efforts.

On December 30th, the Mullingar Rugby Club a Memorial Cup Tournament was organised by Alison Costello in aid of several local mental health charities. Alison included Grow as well as Aware, Pieta, Jigsaw, and SOSAD. Sadly, Alison lost her partner Robbie to suicide in August and she organised this wonderful event in his memory. It was greatly supported on the day. After all of the donations were tallied, the event raised over €35,000 with Grow MH receiving €5,761.20! Thank you, Alison and team. Your kind and generous donation will help Grow Mental Health in our vision of an Ireland where no one needs to navigate mental health challenges alone.

On May 31st, Eoghan and his amazing team cycled from London to Paris to raise funds for two mental health charities. Eoghan, the only Irishman in the crew chose to support Grow Mental Health while his New Zealand teammates rode for Kiwi charity Lifeline. After three grueling days, a snapped gear shifter, a knee injury, rain, mud, broken sleep and countless flat tyres, the team made it to Paris. And they raised nearly £6,000 for the two charities. What an adventure and we are grateful for your commitment to better mental health in Ireland and New Zealand.

On June 2nd, in an effort to raise some well needed funds for men's mental health services, Amy Louise ran the Cork Half Marathon in memory of her Uncle Joe who tragically lost his life to suicide one year earlier. Thank you, Amy Louise for the hours you put in to train for and promote your event. Overall, the fundraiser brought in a whopping €620 for Grow MH and it's services.

Do you want to join these amazing folks in supporting the Grow Mental Health cause? Reach out to us at [email protected] so that we can help you with your campaign. Or you can simply make a donation today by clicking here.


Each year, Grow Mental Health conducts a survey of its group members. We do this to get real information on our groups and how we can improve as an organisation. Results this year include: 
  • 96% said meetings had some positive impact on their day-to-day lives
  • 98% rated help as at least good and over half (55%) rated it as excellent.
  • 98% felt some optimism for the future.
  • Over 40% had reduced or no need of professional help while with Grow.
  • Of those hospitalized in the past, 75% had not been hospitalized in the previous year.
  • Over half (51%) did not experience an increase in symptoms or a relapse in 2023.

Special thanks goes to our members, Grow staff and vast team of volunteers who keep our groups going every week in every corner of Ireland and online. Because of you, nearly every person who walks or signs into a Grow MH meeting are positively impacted by being there. Thank you.

Annabel O'Keeffe
Interim CEO, Grow Mental Health
Wonder at the way we are.
How often in our thoughts
we compare
with lives that we once knew. 

Wonder at the way. We are

waiting to strike a path
around our sense of 
wonder at the way we are;
how often in our thoughts we compare.

Barry, Knocklyon Grow Mental Health Group


The June Grow Mental Health Podcast is all about GO YELLOW! Host Jenny is joined by Grow Marketing, Communications, and Fundraising Manager Síle and longtime Grow group member and Grow Program Team member, Christina for a re-cap of the events that took place between June 20th and 23rd. We also talk about the motivation behind the campaign including the Grow values of HOPE, CONNECTION and SUPPORT. Listen here: https://grow.ie/grow-mental-health-podcast-go-yellow/

Midlands Awareness Day
Regional Administrator with Grow Mental Health, Patricia Steinegger attended the Independent People with Disabilities -Westmeath, Longford and Roscommon event in Bloomfield Hotel On May 27th. There were approximately 35 organisation represented and huge attendance. Patricia had leaflets and poster for all who enquired about the Grow meetings in the area. Thanks for spreading the word about Grow MH, Patricia!
Tesco Community Fund
We’re included in the current round of the Tesco Ireland Community Fund in Tullamore! If you’re shopping in this store over the next few weeks, we’d really appreciate if you’d vote for us using your blue token. Thank you to the Midlands Team for the work you've done to achieve this fundraising opportunity for Grow Mental Health in your region.
HELLO: Caroline Crotty begins her new role heading up the digital area of Grow Mental Health this month. We wish Caroline the very best of luck and know that she will excel in this new role.

GOODBYE: We said goodbye to two of the Grow Mental Health Regional Managers in June. Martin Cadden was an integral part of the Regional Management team for over 10 years, managing both the Northeast and Northwest Grow teams.

We want to thank Martin for his work in Grow and wish him good luck in the future.   Martin will be missed and most especially for bringing the guitar, songs, and fun to a night out.

Ruairi Powell finished on June 20th. We are very grateful to him for his many years of dedication and commitment to Grow. Ruairi worked with Grow for 20 years and has managed all over the country in person and online in the East, Midlands, and West.
Ruairi has fostered great relationships with staff and members and is dedicated to supporting the regional teams in his areas.  He is noted for his calm combined with a "Let's get it done" attitude and is valued by his colleagues as being systematic in coming up with solutions, Ruairi is part of the fabric of Grow and will be missed.


Grow Mental Health is currently seeking an IT Officer (one year contract) who will enable IT efficiency within Grow to ensure support staff can focus on delivering the services that are vital to our members and service users. Click here for job description.

July 7th - Global Forgiveness Day
July 7th - World Chocolate Day
July 18th - World Listening Day
July 18th -  Nelson Mandela Day
July 30th - International Friendship Day

Open to all staff members. (Attendance to be on your own time) weekly on Thursdays @ 10 AM (PLEASE NOTE UPDATED DAY/TIME) Contact Mary Walsh for the link: [email protected]


Online Grow Group meeting every Friday at 2 PM for any Grow member who might have missed their weekly Group, is looking for some extra support between meetings, or would like to offer support to others. Contact Felicia: [email protected]

Meetings take place online on Tuesdays between 10:30 AM and 12 PM. Click here for more details.

Our Caring and Sharing Online Coffee Morning is open to anyone in the Grow Community and meets online on the LAST MONDAY of every month. Contact [email protected] for details. Why not come along and socialise with other Grow members and staff in a casual, friendly setting?
Stay up to date with Grow by subscribing to our social media channels at the links below.

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Information Line: 0 818 474 474
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