Grace Kearney, behind her desk at Ballymahon's Bridgeways Family Resource Centre. Photo: Michelle Ghee.
'I'm a Goner'. Those were the words scrawled on the wall of the Bridgeways Family Resource Centre in Ballymahon last week, accompanied by a doodle of a broken heart.
Prompted by what she saw as “a cry for help”, coordinator of the Centre, Grace Kearney, posted a heartfelt message on Facebook, informing followers that she would be reopening the Centre the following day, ahead of schedule.
“It was the maintenance man who saw it first and sent me a photo,” Grace explained to the Longford Leader.
“It's such a serious message. We looked at the CCTV footage but it happened at night time so it's very hard to tell who did it.”
But, she added, there were two people in the footage - one person walked off down the town while the second sprayed the message on the wall. And, she said, while it was hard to tell in the dark, the person in question looked male.
“I don't care who did it - just that they're safe,” said Grace.
If there was ever a good time to need the services of Bridgeways Family Resource Centre, it was certainly last week as the Centre announced a host of funding that will go towards promoting positive mental health between now and the end of the year.
“We've just received €6,000 from the Healthy Ireland Fund for a 'Positive Male Mental Health Programme',” Grace explained.
“We'll use that funding to buy weights, to pay for a fitness instructor, for mental health techniques.
“It will be a lovely programme only for men. It's a 12-week programme and we've never done anything like this before.
“We're doing it in conjunction with the Granard Family Resource Centre and it's really positive for males in both towns.”
It's not all about the men though. The Centre also received €2,000 from Applegreen a number of weeks ago to fund a Youth Healthy Living Initiative.
This programme is aimed towards young members of the Ballymahon community and will promote healthy and active living through afterschool activities such as yoga, mindfulness, water sports and healthy eating.
The programme will benefit 50 children and runs over 24 weeks up until November 2018.
A third initiative that will be run by the Bridgeways Family Resource Centre is GROW and will be a free five week programme for anyone who wants to take part.
This Community Mental Health Programme will focus on positive mental health, mindfulness, managing stress and anxiety, bereavement, suicide awareness and prevention, as well as various other wellness topics.
GROW will kick off on September 18 and will take place on Tuesdays from 7.30pm to 9.30pm.
In addition, Bridgeways also offers a confidential, professional, weekly counselling service.
“The service isn't being over-utilised here and it really should be,” Grace explained.
“At the moment I've got funding for six clients, but we don't have six clients.
“It's a service that people are afraid to use because I think people are nervous that people will see them.
“But the counsellor isn't from Ballymahon. You go in the side door and out the side door, so it's private.”
Bridgeways has received €4,000 in funding for its profesional counselling service and there is, at present, no waiting list.
“If you don't have transport and you need the service, it's right there in Ballymahon, you just need to use it,” said Grace.
And the Bridgeways service is, perhaps, one of the best for those who aren't on a high income or who feel they won't be able to afford it.
“The policy in place is that each client is offered six sessions,” Grace explained.
“The first two sessions are free and the final four sessions are priced on the client's income and needs. Because some clients might have a good income, but a lot of overheads, so we work to make sure the service is affordable for them.”
And, she stressed, absolutely everything about the service is completely private and confidential.
Bridgeways provides vital services to the community of Ballymahon and needs as much support as it can get.
“I'm the only full time staff member and we have two part-time staff,” Grace explained.
Following the message that was written on the Centre's wall, Grace decided to reopen Bridgeways ahead of schedule.
The Centre was closed for the month of August which, Grace said, shows how under-resourced services like this are.
“If I'm not here, nobody is here,” she said.
“I just need more staff and more help so I don't have to close for the month of August. And in a perfect world, the service wouldn't be closed.
“But with Ballymahon growing, I hope people won't lose sight of what's needed in the town.
“About 25% of the population are under the age of 17 and there's very little for them to do.
“A huge amount of youth work is needed in Ballymahon and hopefully there's money coming down the line.”
If you are struggling with your mental health, you are welcome to call in to the Bridgeways Family Resource Centre to speak to a staff member or to sign up for one of the programmes or services available.
If you'd like to find out more information about the counselling service, you can contact Grace on 0858668062.
Bridgeways is committed to working with the community to bring about a positive social change for everybody.
To find out more or for updates on the Centre's various programmes, follow Bridgeways Family Resource Centre on Facebook.