Novel fashion and casino fundraiser takes place this Friday night in Lough Rynn Castle

Rachel Masterson

Reporter:

Rachel Masterson

Sarah Strange, Michelle Connell, Amy Leslie and Michael Collum, organisers of Talk About It Longford. Photo: Michelle Ghee. www.gphotos.ie
A new campaign is underway to bring a suicide awareness and help centre to Longford.

A new campaign is underway to bring a suicide awareness and help centre to Longford.

The initiative, talkaboutit.ie, aims to tackle suicide in Ireland by simply talking about it. It is a national voluntary organisation based in Mayo.

Amy Leslie of Headstrong Millinery Design, Sarah Strange from Grasshopper and Michelle Connell and Mick Collum from Village Flowers, Drumlish have come together to raise awareness in Longford with the overall aim of setting up a similar service in the county.

Speaking to the Leader, Amy said she has been passionate about the issue for quite some time and while she has never been affected by suicide personally it has touched us all in some way. Deciding that not enough was being done to highlight the issue she wanted to do something about it, “I had been looking into running a fashion show for quite some time and wanted to fundraise for a local charity dealing with depression, mental health and suicide”.

Not knowing what charity to fundraise for, she conducted some research in the County as to what services were available and concluded that there were very little in the area.

“It was my mother who found Joe, the founder of www.talkaboutit.ie, handing out information leaflets on their organisation at a local vintage event.”

Amy then met with Joe with the idea of setting up a similar service in Longford to “work closely with people suffering from depression, mental health issues and suicide ideation”.

According to Sarah, being in partnership with Amy it is hard not to get caught up in her passion for this cause; “When Amy spoke to me about Joe and his team in Talk About It in Mayo and her hopes to open a centre in Longford, I jumped at the chance to help”. Sarah and Amy are also joined by Michelle and Mick on their crusade to create a safe place for those affected by suicide in Longford.

The idea for Casino Royale came from the girls’ love for fashion.

“Amy mentioned that she was hoping to organise a fashion show or event this winter. She went on to tell me about how involved and interested she was in suicide awareness and mental health charities. Mental health awareness is something that I have always wanted to get involved in supporting. There are very few families who will not at some point need help for a loved one. Suicide is one of those devastating events that changes whole communities, and yet there’s such a reluctance to be open about it”.

The girls have been overwhelmed with the support from local businesses.

“Every single person and business that we have spoken to have been fantastic in either promoting the event, donating prizes or sponsoring the night its self, we really couldn’t have asked for a better response. Everyone really gets behind the cause, and all agree we need these services in Longford. The entire county is behind us” Sarah explains.

When asked about the issue of suicide being openly discussed in society, Sarah agreed that “It’s one of the great taboos in society, and it’s a difficult thing for people to open up about. There are some amazing services in the country, but we felt that a service was badly needed in Longford also. There are villages and towns in the county that are really hurting from the pain of suicide. What’s needed is for people to genuinely feel that it’s okay to talk, that it’s important to talk and for us to give them the facilities to talk when they’re ready”.

As the issue affects a variety of people, they wanted to host an event that would appeal to everyone. Considering the generous offer from Lough Rynn to host the event there, Casino Royale seemed like the perfect choice, promising to be a “fun, fast-paced night of fashion and casino games, along with some surprises too.”

The organisation will not end with the event.

“We’re already thinking beyond Casino Royale,” Sarah confirms

“We’ll be waking up the morning after the event, ready to hit the ground running. We’re all too passionate about this cause to waste any time in setting up Talk About It Longford. The event will be a success if we get people talking about mental health issues, we’ll have made a difference.”

Casino Royale is taking place on Friday, November 8 at 7.30pm in Lough Rynn Castle.