Memorable weekend to celebrate 50th anniversary

After months of careful preparation the 50th Anniversary Weekend proved to be a huge success with GROW members and staff, along special guests enjoying a memorable few days in Carlow.

The weekend was attended by members and staff from all over Ireland, along with visitors from Australia, United States and Canada, with National Chairman, Rob Stephen, welcoming all to the conference entitled ‘Universal Benefit each person’s Recovery or growth aids the transformation of the world’.


Proceedings were opened by Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People, Jim Daly, who underlined his commitment to push through on his attempts to reform the approach to mental health.

In complementing the efforts of GROW in working with people in the community and helping individuals recover from all types of mental challenges, Minister Daly stated that this approach ties in with his own views on how to deal effectively with mental health.

Minister Daly has been proactive in updating the National Policy on Mental Health, entitled ‘A Vision for Change’, which has work in the community as a central part of recovery.

MC for the day was John Lonergan who reminded everyone that unwell people have the capacity to recover and that we must never lose hope.

He introduced the first guest speaker, Dr Jim Lucey, Medical Director of St Patrick’s Mental Health Services, Dublin, since 2008, and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Trinity College Dublin.

Dr Lucey spoke on ‘The Importance of Fellowship as part of Recovery’ and reminded the attendees that everyone has the right to live a mentally healthy life and to expect recovery.

St Gertrude Howley spoke on the subject of ‘Choosing to be Mentally Well’ by using the GROW programme. She delivered an entertaining speech which included taking John Lonergan on a test drive with a four wheel car to illustrate how we can control our thinking.

Next to take to the platform was Dr Sharon Lambert of the UCC School of Psychology and her talk on ‘Rethinking mental health service delivery – applying research to practice’, and her very engaging delivery provided some very interesting insights.

Dr Mike Watts concluded the morning session with a talk entitled ‘GROW a school of living …where Recovery is experienced as a gradual process of Renchantment with Life’. He spoke about life being made up of stories and how we all have a unique contribution to make to that story.

After lunch, Kate Mitchell and Padraig O Feich of Mental Health Reform outlined a survey which was undertaken to see how far mental health services had moved towards a community-based service. While improvements had been made, it was concluded that this hadn’t progressed as far as was anticipated in the Vision for Change. To view the full report click here

Gina Delaney, HSE Business Manager for Mental Health Engagement and Recovery, then spoke of her own experience in relation to mental health challenges and the value of peer support and friendships. Gina also underlined the need to get services that are more recovery orientated.

Julie Ling, National Manager, Program and Business Development from GROW in Australia, spoke on the topic, ‘Changing to remain True –m responding to community needs and ensuring quality in peer-led groups’.

Julie spoke about the origins of GROW in Australia and how the programme can be used for prevention. She revealed that the organisation had developed a programme for schools to meet the need of children developing mental health issues from the age of 14, while suicide remains a huge issue among young people in Australia.

The external conference was brought to a conclusion by James Browne TD, the Fianna Fail spokesperson on mental health, who stated that he wanted to see politicians deliver on mental health policies. He revealed that it is his intention to ensure mental health issues are discussed in the Dail on a weekly basis, and how the community led approach to mental health can help combat loneliness which is a huge issue in Irish society.

If you would like a copy of any of the presentations from the guest speakers please contact Eunan on [email protected].

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