Over 6,000 people experiencing mental health or psychological difficulties have visited an Ennis drop-in support centre over a two-year period.
According to official figures produced by Emotions Peer Support Centre, the number of attendees went up from 2,800 in the period from May 2012 to May 2013 to 3,200 from May 2013 to May 2014.
The centre, which celebrates its two-year anniversary with an open day from 11am to 3pm this Friday, has attracted almost 8,000 hours from volunteers.
Liam Minogue of Emotions Peer Support said the centre has been a huge success, since it opened its doors two years ago.
Mr Minogue said eight Health Service Executive (HSE) staff participated in a Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) Peer Support Group workshop at the centre, which can now be provided for clients in day facilities run by the HSE in Ennis, Shannon, Lisdoonvarna, Ennistymon and Kilrush.
Operating on a budget of €18,500, the drop-in centre operates from Monday to Friday and hopes are high this peer support service could be extended to the weekend, subject to the availability of volunteers and resources.
Healthcare professionals have also completed a suicide prevention training programme, to help them cope and respond to a person in crisis, who may be contemplating self-harm or taking their own lives.
Daniel Meehan, who was referred by a doctor to the centre two years ago, while he was in a very distressed state, revealed the centre has helped him to completely turn his life around.
“When I visited the centre first, about two years ago, I didn’t think it would make any difference. I went out of respect for my doctor. The minute I went in the door, I knew there was something special about the place. Everyone was very welcoming and there was a greet feeling.
“I completed a two-day and a five-day WRAP programme at the centre, which helped me to cope. Every morning, I get up and I look forward to going to the centre because it gives me a real focus and sense of worth.
“I am now feeling very well and I know I owe a lot to the centre for feeling so positive,” he said.
Mr Minogue acknowledged it would be great to provide a service at weekends, as this is a time when some people feel particularly lonely and isolated.
“The centre provides hope for people. Some people put on a mask to hide when they are in the depths of despair,” he said.
Mr Meehan said he knew people in this category felt they belonged somewhere, having visited the centre. “The most important thing for any person who is in despair is not to bottle it up. Sharing your problems in a place like the centre, even when a person is in crisis, makes a huge difference. It helps a person to get rid of their negative feelings,” he said.
Representatives from the centre marched in the St Patrick’s Day Parade in Ennis, to raise public awareness.
The centre aims to reach as many people as possible who are experiencing mental health difficulties or who are at risk through social isolation, family circumstances, disability or unemployment.
It provides groups, which are engaged in creative writing, the Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) Peer Support, art therapy, self-advocacy, knitting and film. These groups meet on a regular basis and each group is represented on the Emotions Steering Group, which has overall responsibility for running the centre.
All are welcome to drop into the centre on the Clonroad Business Park, Ennis, this Friday. Contact 6892552 for further information.