Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Longford Westmeath TD Robert Troy will be among scores of cyclists expected to take part in a major fundraising drive this weekend aimed at reducing the stigma around mental health.
The inaugural staging of the ‘Tour of the Lakelands’ is designed to raise much needed funds for local counselling service Good2Talk in Longford and Mullingar as well as Athlone’s not-for-profit organisation Pieta House.
Speaking ahead of this Saturday’s event, Mr Troy said the idea was precipitated largely as a result of funding cuts to Mullingar's Good2Talk offices but also because of the outstanding level of service it provides.
“A number of us came together and said what could we do to help and for that idea to fit in with the HSE’s overall national policy and this (Tour of the Lakelands) is doing that,” he said.
It’s not the first time the Fianna Fail politician has spoken publicly on the need to create more understanding around the issues of mental health.
Less than three months after successfully retaining his seat at the 2016 general election, Mr Troy opened up about his own battles with anxiety.
In an open letter carried in a number of national publications and in front of the watching eyes of the general public in the Dáil, the 35-year-old said there have been occasions when even getting out of bed was a difficult task.
“It is often the least likely people who need help,” he said.
“I suffer with anxiety.
“I know what it’s like to experience one’s heart racing so fast it feels like it will burst out of one’s chest.
“I know what it is like to wake in the morning and not want to get out of bed for no other reason than that I do not feel I have the capacity to address the challenges of the day.
“I know what it is like to have a knot in the pit of one’s stomach. It is like being in a tug-o-war with two people pulling at either side and not knowing how to adapt to the situation.
Almost a year on from that candid admission, Mr Troy is hoping as many people as possible get behind what he hopes will become a yearly event.
“We are starting at the Good2Talk offices in Mullingar and from there we are heading to Athlone and then on to Ballymore, Ballymahon and finishing in Longford at the Good2Talk offices there before heading back to Mullingar,” he said.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny, a keen cyclist himself, is expected to undertake the first leg of the tour.
Mr Troy, who is perhaps more familiar with running having recently completed the Rome Marathon, hopes many more will join in when proceedings get underway from 9am on Saturday.
In an added boost, the Fianna Fáil spokesman on Transport, Tourism and Sport said there was the added fillip of a five star overnight stay in Glasson’s Wineport Lodge in a draw, which is likely to be held at the conclusion of affairs.
For more, see the event’s Tour of the Lakelands Facebook page.