October 2023 Newsletter – Opening Up to Friendship

October is World Mental Health Month and at Grow, we are continuing to support those who need it through their mental health journeys. Our focus never wavers from our vision of an Ireland where no one needs to navigate mental health challenges or life’s struggles alone. This month, however, we take advantage of the amplified conversation around mental health and spotlight the stories of hope and recovery that our Grow community has been brave enough to share over the years.  We are also focusing, this month, on the special key to mental health which is friendship. We will look at the different types of friendship we experience over time as well as what it means to take that first step and OPEN OURSELVES UP TO FRIENDSHIP.  We looked in depth at friendship and peer support during our 2023 annual National Weekend. Read on to learn more! As always, we would love to hear from you. You can reach us on our social media platforms and by email [email protected]

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   Opening Up To Friendship
We came from every county in Ireland for the 2023 Grow Mental Health National Weekend. We opened ourselves up to connection and friendship. We also recognised the significance of doing so in changing our thinking, feeling, and acting. We came together as a caring and sharing community and celebrated our ability to be with one another in person. We learned, explored, sang, danced, and created and returned to our Grow Groups with lots to share.

With over 150 people from the Grow community in attendance over the weekend, we made the most of our time together. On Friday, after settling into the gorgeous and comfortable Killeshen Hotel in Portlaoise, some met for the Grow AGM while others who were attending the NW for the first time were warmly greeted by Grow Digital Manager Colette Flannery and Grow Volunteer Coordinator Mary Walsh to learn about the weekend ahead. A beautiful dinner was followed by a hilarious table quiz MC'ed by the one and only Christine Fitzgerald. Others chose the quiet of a Sound Meditation session with Mindfulness Coach Deirdre Howard. Afterward, we were awed and amazed by our Grow Community Players. Area Coordinator Alan Keaveney and team, as always, organized a rousing evening of song, recitation, and top-notch entertainment. Huge thanks to all who shared their talents with us on the night. 

After a peaceful night's sleep, we gathered again on Saturday morning for breakfast together followed by a morning of informative and engaging speakers. Grow Interim CEO Annabel O'Keeffe kicked the program off with a welcome address and interactive exercises that highlighted the caring and sharing nature of Grow. Fiona followed with a gripping story of her mental health journey. A familiar part of any gathering, the personal story is always a powerful moment in our program. Thank you to Fiona and her trusted friend Aoife for their bravery in getting up in front of our crowd to share.

The morning session continued with a focus on the peer support model of recovery. Elaine Browne, Founder of Perspective in Ireland shared with us all that her organisation is doing in the West of Ireland around peer support and peer coaching. Elaine's personal journey with mental health inspired the trojan work she does now. Elaine was followed by Michael John Norton and Paul Clabby - the unstoppable double-act who are helping to drive the peer support model even further in the HSE. Among his many roles, Michael is the Recovery and Engagement Project Lead at the HSE, Author, and Lecturer at UCC. Paul is a Peer Support Worker in HSE as well as a member of the Grow Board after meany years with Grow as an Area Coordinator. The pair spoke about the essential role of peer support in the Irish healthcare environment and what is coming for the sector.

We broke for sustenance, a hearty soup and sandwiches, and returned in the afternoon for the highly anticipated workshops. Mary Walsh and Kate Slater taught some of us how to handmake greeting cards and ornaments. Crafting - any creative outlet really - can be a wonderful support for people when they are anxious or blue. Acting Regional Manager Eileen Clevenger supported a gratitude meditation workshop for those wanting to start or deepen their practice. There was a drumming workshop led by Deirdre Howard and finally, a music workshop led by our own Gerry Farrell. It's easy to see why folks had a difficult time choosing between these workshops!

We moved our Saturday evening gala forward by an hour to accommodate the IRL v SCO Rugby World Cup match (come on, Ireland!) and had much to celebrate after another gorgeous meal. We did just that accompanied by a local singer/songwriter who led us in a joyous night of song and dance. 

The Sunday morning session included the launch of the brand-new Progress & Reflection Journal. This project was driven by the indomitable Kate Slater, who along with the weekend's MC Christine Fitzgerald unveiled the book to those in attendance. We were delighted that everyone who came for National Weekend was able to take home a copy of the journal and others can now order them through their Area Coordinator.

We wrapped the weekend's program up with an update from the Communications, Marketing, and Fundraising team speaking with Grow members who have contributed in some way to their marketing efforts. Grow Area Coordinator and member Danielle Londas spoke to Communications, Marketing, and Fundraising Manager Síle Tracey about her experience of interviewing for a piece on her recovery for the Sunday World Magazine. Grow Member Jonathan Mullins shared why he contributes to getting Grow's message out in many different ways. Finally, Grow Area Coordinator Liz Shortall and Grow Board Member Gerry Farrell sat with Communications Officer Jenny Synnott for a live podcast recording, featuring a conversation about opening up to friendship. After another delicious lunch, we went our separate ways - back to our counties with full hearts and so much to share with our Grow Groups. Thank you to everyone who worked to make this weekend a success and to those who travelled to be together for these impactful three days.

By John Madden, Grow Area Coordinator, Midlands Region
Friendships change as we progress through life. Initially, our besties are our cousins, family, and those geographically close to us, i.e. the neighbours. Then comes school where our new bestie might be the person we sit beside in the classroom. Then we find and pursue new interests. Maybe it is basketball, could be football, could be hockey. Regardless, we find friends in these circles too. The circle gets bigger and all of a sudden, your social life is more hectic than that of your parents as you find yourself invited to countless birthday parties and playdates. Exhausting stuff but at 10 years old, your energy is practically limitless and the only true caveat to fulfilling your duties as a social butterfly is “Mammy (or daddy), can we go to….?”

Then come the teenage years. An era heavily laden with trying to find out “who am I?” and “Where’s my tribe?”. Finding one's identity is a roller coaster and it also brings with it new friends. Around now, all of a sudden, your sexuality exists, and adding this to the cocktail of friendships just turns life on its head. But like so many things, we get through it by making a lot of mistakes. Secondary school is certainly a stressful time for most... “what subjects do I pick? What do I want to be? Who’s the new girl/boy?”.

By now, as in adolescence, friendships are a lot more stable and continuous; and often, we do hold onto many of these friends through these formative years as we tend to choose them as opposed to geographical convenience or owing to our proximity to them in the classroom. There’s a form of new emancipation here too as we turn our gaze from our parents/guardians for guidance and look to some of these new people in our life. At this stage, we tend to get new affirmations of our identity but that too takes trial, error, and experimentation. The nature of friendship now evolves into something far more intimate and reciprocal. Intimate friends share each other’s experiences and, in many ways, inhabit each other’s lives. Friendships generally share similar viewpoints and values, and also common backgrounds and traditions. They witness the milestones and unexpected changes of life, the lows, the highs, the sadness, and the celebrations.

With all that in mind, it is unambiguously clear how important friendship is in terms of how we develop and who we become. It is where we learn how to interact with one another, how to agree and disagree, and how to accommodate those with temperaments that differ from our own. We live and we learn, as the old adage goes. This is all happening early in life and our circles grow but then life changes yet again. Some commence careers or further themselves in education at 3rd level. This once again yields more new people into our life but what we sometimes neglect to realise is that as we move on with our lives some of those friends from our earlier years fade into the background. The once unbreakable bonds detach as we see the older friends less and less. 

Then come the children, granted not everybody but as this eventually occurs our friends’ and our own focus turns to the new generation whom we are tasked with raising. This, of course, is one of the greatest privileges we can serve but with this enormous task, we see friends less and less. We still have friends, of course, but the notion of popping away for a weekend with the gang to regale old times becomes more of a fantasy than a reality. People move on and the circle of friends we once had begins to contract. As we progress into mid-adulthood, the circle is small and continues to shrink. That does not mean we forget about them or that we do not like them anymore. Life has changed and people have commitments and we get caught up in all of it. Friendship in life reverts to something resembling the earliest years when our friends are governed by their proximity to us. We still see old friends from time to time, and it would be easy to say something like “what’s rare is wonderful” but we all need meaningful connection all the time. The biggest difference now is it becomes so much more difficult to make friends. On the playground, it’s simple – “Hey, your shoes are cool, wanna play cops and robbers with us?” or “You like Fortnite too?” In your mid-40s, it just isn’t as easy. You could try that approach but it’s likely to be met with shock.

So what’s the moral of the story here? Good friends are open, honest, and genuine. They appreciate their differences but don’t hold back when criticism is needed. The ones that stick around for all the highs and lows, thick and thin, the celebrations and the set-backs. These are the very ones we must treasure and the very ones we often find in our Grow Groups. Maybe we should take a step back and examine what we have and what we are missing, and if we are found to be wanting, make that first move. In the era of uber-connectivity, we have little excuse in terms of the means of reaching out. This is real life, nobody has several hundred friends despite what your Facebook page has on it. It is about quality, not quantity. And always remember, it takes a long time to grow an old friend. 


By Diarmuid, Grow Regional Team Member, Southern Region

Sheila Magliozzi has been a member of the Regional Team Southern in the Region for the past 30 years. Sheila has been our main fundraiser on the Regional Team and over the years has raised approximately €600,000 for the Southern Region.

As well as being the main organiser of fundraising, Sheila has been on the ground standing at shopping centre entrances, at church gates, and doing Pub collections at Christmas time. Over the years the uplifting, can-do attitude that radiated from Sheila encouraged other members of Grow to help out with fundraising activities.

Sheila is the quintessential Grow volunteer having all the attributes that you would want in a volunteer -  endless enthusiasm, dedication, positivity, and a readiness to put her shoulder to the wheel and do the hard slog of on-the-ground fundraising.

The money that Sheila raised has gone directly to support our Grow members in the Southern Region with significant positive effects. Because of Sheila’s work, we have been able to give generous and much-needed subsidies to our members for regional weekends, national weekends, and various social events over the years. 

On the 24th of September, the Cork Volunteer Centre held a Volunteer awards ceremony in Cork City. Many charities in the Cork/ Kerry area were represented at the awards and their volunteers recognised. Sheila was awarded the “Board Member of the Year" award. The picture above shows Sheila with her award accompanied by Grow members Michael Manning and Diarmuid Cronin.

Some thoughts on opening up to friendship from our Grow Community

It means walking side by side with hope and love through life’s joys and struggles to me

Friendship: The invisible magnet that binds people together taking them from a place of solitude into a new dimension of welcome, gratitude, smiles, laughter, loyalty, sharing, openness, kindness, care, warmth, love, and fun.


In the Spring Keith, one of the Cahir Farmer’s Market suppliers, wanted to sell Sunflower plants. Keith sowed the seeds and eventually brought beautiful sunflower plants to the market. He wanted to give back to his community and he and his wife, Verona, decided to sell the blooms in aid of a charity. They selected Grow Mental Health as they were both impressed with the work that Grow and the group members do in their Cahir community. 

On Saturday, September 23rd, the Farmer’s Market celebrated its 25th anniversary and a local supporter put together a photo collage of the beautiful Sunflowers in full bloom from all the purchasers. 

A very heartfelt thank you to Keith and Verona for their beautiful gesture and generous donation to Grow.

Wallace's Mobile Homes in Wexford invited Grow Area Coordinator Felicia Black (pictured here with Wallace's staff) to their offices on World Mental Health Day to have a chat about Grow, mental health, and our community supports. They also very kindly shared that they would be donating a portion of every
mobile home sale in October to Grow to support our work in Wexford. What a generous gesture! Thank you to Felicia for representing Grow and to Wallace's Mobile Homes for their kind support.
With two Community Education Programs running this World Mental Health Month, Grow is getting the message of support and wellbeing out on all fronts. In both Portlaoise and Limerick, Author John Lonergan and Psychotherapist Caroline Crotty teamed up to launch the programs with guidance on finding contentment, even in the darkest times. Both series continue throughout the month with informative and exciting mental health insights. To learn more, click here.

Psychotherapist Caroline Crotty, Grow Area Coordinator in the Midlands Michelle McCormick, and Author John Lonergan launch the Portlaoise Community Education Program on Wednesday, October 4th. 

Grow Mental Health was once again represented at this free event with a special message. For the second time, Cork/Kerry Community Healthcare partnered with Mallow Chamber of Commerce, Cork County Council, See Change, and Shine to present ‘Together at the Castle’, a Mental Health and Wellbeing event for the local North Cork community, on Sunday 11th September at Mallow Castle.

The day saw entertainment, interactive activities, workshops, and more - all with the aim of raising awareness for mental health in the community and destigmatise the conversation.

Our mighty Grow community in Cork came together to represent Grow and answer any questions people had during the day. Thank you to the Regional Team, Area Coordinator Noreen O’Sullivan, and all who were involved in this fantastic event.
By Alan Keaveney, Grow Area Coordinator, Western Region

This networking event was organised by Mental Health Ireland, Galway and Healthy Galway (City Council).

Many mental health agencies and community groups were represented including Aware, Shine, Jigsaw, No.4 Youth Service, Galway Rural Development, the University of Galway counselling service, HSE Health Promotion, HSE Suicide Prevention Office, Galway Recovery College, and others.

The Galway City Mayor Eddie Hoare opened the proceedings with a short speech on the theme of mental health, pointing out that people working in this area are often not recognised for the vital work they do.

The Cathaoirleach of Galway, Liam Carroll (pictured above with Grow's Alan Keaveney) then addressed those gathered. When talking about Men's Mental Health he singled out Grow for the impact our banner had!

We moved on to a fun Agency 'Speed Dating' activity where each organisation had a few minutes to explain their agency/work to someone else and hear about the work of others. We spent the final hour mapping out what services we provide across various categories like communities, disadvantaged, or minority groups.

The hope is that this will become an annual networking event.

By Finola O'Callaghan, Grow Area Coordinator, Southern Region
Marriott International, which has its Customer Engagement Centre located in the centre of Cork city, used World Mental Health Day on October 10th to organise an in-house event at their premises on MacCurtain Street. The aim of this event was to demonstrate the organisation’s commitment to their core value of looking after the wellbeing and happiness of their associates. 

HR Manager Nicola McCarthy spoke about the diverse international workforce employed at the Cork Customer Engagement Centre and how the company’s objective was to support their employees’ welfare and wellbeing. Along with offering their own Employee Assistance Programme, Nicola also wanted to provide additional information on the local services that were also available to their management and staff.

Southern Region Area Co-ordinator Finola O’Callaghan (pictured above) gave a talk on the day on Grow Mental Health meetings and supports available online and in-person. She spoke about how the benefits of the meetings, the Grow Program, and Grow community could be of benefit to anyone who may be struggling with any aspect of their emotional or mental wellbeing.

The philosophy of Marriott’s founder was ‘Take care of associates and they will take care of the customers’. This people-first culture is what Marriott believes contributes to making Marriott International a desired company to work for and that highlighting the importance of taking care of your mental wellbeing is vital to a happy and fulfilled workforce.

Grow Member Mike Watts and Area Coordinator Liz Shortall represented Grow at an informational event on Friday, October 6th in Kilkenny. Many different mental health organisations were present on the day to highlight the supports available in the area.
By Finola O'Callaghan, Grow Area Coordinator, Southern Region
In advance of World Mental Health Day, Cycle Against Suicide and Community Partners held their annual Bike4Life Cork Spin-Off, which took place around Cork City and surrounding areas. On Saturday 7th October a peloton of orange cyclists was visible throughout the morning and afternoon, pedalling their way around Cork, taking in areas such as Douglas, Passage West, Fota, and Carrigtwohill. The aim of the Cycle Against Suicide event was to raise awareness around mental health, break the stigma, and promote the positive effects that cycling and physical exercise, in general, have on our mental wellbeing.

Grow was among the contributors invited along to the finish line at  Cork’s Marina Markets to showcase our community supports. This recently established food emporium was the perfect setting for the finish of the 42km loop for the many hungry competitors after their exerting cycling circuit. Southern Region Area Co-ordinator Finola O’Callaghan (pictured above with Aisling Keane, Mental Health Promotion Officer with Cork Mental Health Foundation) was on hand to dispense information on Grow Mental Health supports and also got the opportunity to sample some of the delicious fare that was on offer at the Market, from the various different food stalls.

The weather played a key factor in the success of the day, delivering unseasonably dry, balmy conditions for the October cycle. Other contributors at the event were Cork Mental Health, the Samaritans, Jigsaw, Carrig Aware who, along with Grow, were all on hand to provide information on their respective organisation and be part of the movement to break barriers, spread empathy and contribute to building a brighter healthier future for the people of Cork.


New Grow Groups
Limerick, Mondays, 11:00am - 1:00pm, Grow Offices, 33 Henry Street, Limerick. Contact Celia for information: 086 1526966
Roscommon, Wednesdays, 11:00am - 1:00pm, REGARI Recovery College, Athlone Road, Ardsallagh More, Roscommon (Beside Roscommon Hospital). Contact Antoinette for information: 086 1659277
Bray, Tuesdays, 10:30am - 12:30pm, Queen of Peace Parish Centre, Putland Road, Bray, Co Wicklow. Contact Trish for information: 086 0129082 
Wexford, Mondays, 7:00 - 9:00pm, South West Wexford Family Resource Centre, Ramsgrange, Co. Wexford. Y34 DP26. Contact Felicia for information: 086 1034332
Carlow, Thursdays, 10:30am - 12:00pm, The Involvement Centre, St Dympna’s Complex, Carlow R93DE62. Contact Liz for information: 086 084 9171

Group Updates
The Blackpool, Cork Group is moving to Mondays and will meet once a month, on the first Monday of the month, face to face from 6.30pm – 8.30pm at The Next Step Building at 22 Sullivan’s Quay, Cork T12 PH6N. The other Mondays they will meet online at the same time. Mary Purcell 086 8231624
Carndonagh Group is moving to The Shed, in the Old Co-op Building, Moville Road, Carndonagh Co Donegal. Contact Paul for information: 086 7702860
The Growthful Wednesday Online Group is moving to a Monday night at 7:00pm . It will be now known as the Growthful Monday Online Group. Contact Paul for information: 086 7702860
Balbriggan Group meetings will be moving from Monday to Thursday from October 5th (same place and time 2pm). Contact Louise for information: 086 7706067
The Dundrum Group has moved to a new address: Burton Hall Rehab & Training Centre, Cluain Mhuire Community Mental Health Services, Arena Road, Sandyford, Dublin 10, (located behind Woodies DIY). Contact Jeff for information: 086 0787701
The Trim Group has moved to High Street, Townspark, South Trim, Co Meath Contact Trish for information: 0867706067 
The Grow Digital Team has been rolling out two offerings for those wanting to learn more about Grow Mental Health. There is a weekly Information Session (online) and a 4-week Introduction to Grow currently running. If you or anyone you know has been considering trying out a Grow peer support group, why not start here? To register for the information session, scan the QR Code or click here. More information on the 4-week course can be found here.
Grow is currently seeking a part-time Data Officer for Monitoring, Recording, and Evaluation
(25-hour week, MATERNITY COVER). This role coordinates the data management of Grow Groups and monitors, reports, and evaluates the Grow group work in support of Grow’s vision, mission, and goals.  Working closely with the CEO, the Head of National Programs, and other team members this person will develop and implement all Grow group monitoring, reporting, and evaluation activities, that relate to the Grow groups ensuring that these activities meet the needs of Grow and our stakeholders. This role requires experience in Salesforce administration and Microsoft Excel. See grow.ie for more information.

Our latest podcast is about creativity and how finding our creative outlet influences our mental health. Jenny was joined by singer, songwriter, and Grow Group member Luke and Grow Area Coordinator and published author Liz for this fun and thoughtful conversation. As always, thanks for listening! Listen at grow.ie

October 1st - International Music Day
October 1st - International Day for Older Persons
October 1st - International Coffee Day
October 6th - 8th - Grow Mental Health National Weekend
October 7th - World Smile Day
October 10th - World Mental Health Day
October 17th - International Day for the Eradication of Poverty
October 31st - Halloween

Open to all staff members. (Attendance to be in your own time) weekly on Mondays @ 2 PM 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 first Monday of every month. Contact [email protected] for details. Why not come along and share 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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33 Henry Street, Limerick, Ireland
Information Line: 0 818 474 474
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