Putting mental health top of the agenda in Ballygar

Ballygar Mental Health Awareness and Promotion was established late last year with the aim of offering peer support to those who need it in the town and surrounding areas. Reporter Dan Dooner recently spoke with group facilitator Louise Holian about the initiative’s progress to date…


Tell us a bit about Ballygar Mental Health Awareness and Promotion…

The Ballygar Mental Health Awareness and Promotion initiative was established in late 2022 in conjunction with our local community development worker Bernie Kelly (Solas Family Resource, Headford).

I was conscious that other people locally may have been dealing with similar issues and that Bernie wanted to address mental health as part of her remit. We got together to share ideas and a made a commitment to take action and that was really the starting point.

So how can this initiative provide help to those who need it?  

Initially the idea was to train up a peer group of local people who would be of help to our neighbours, friends and families in a first aid response type of way. Then we would provide workshops and information sessions with speakers/practitioners in the area which would be accessible for the whole community.

Has there been much ‘buy in’ so far from the Ballygar community?

There was a small turnout at the initial meeting, but as we know, these things can take a while to get off the ground especially because of the subject matter. There still remains that ‘small town’ fear of people knowing your business and of course it’s not always an easy issue to discuss. But in general we have received a lot of positive feedback and people have been very encouraging.

How much progress has been made since the initiative was established and what is the current focus?

We have so far established a core group that are interested in coming on board and being part of our activities.

Overall, the aims are to reduce stigma and have mental health on the agenda all year round within the community. It’s also about helping our peers at a local level so that people realise they aren’t on their own, even filling gaps where perhaps people are waiting to access a service.

This is not designed to replace existing services but to complement those services and act as a signposting space for other local and indeed national mental health services.


What will the group look like and what training will members undergo?


This group would be a diverse mix of ages and genders, to give a real representation of our community.

To ensure a qualitive standardised approach the group would undergo training like Mental Health First Aid, Safetalk, and Assist – among others – and we would hopefully work in partnership with local agencies in Ballygar.


What are you hoping to achieve with the initiative in the coming years?


The hope over the coming years is to meet our aims as outlined above and become a tighter community when it comes to addressing mental health issues that are common to us all.

If Ballygar Mental Health Awareness and Promotion helps just one person to reach out for help in a non-judgemental environment then it will be considered a success.


*If any local services or individuals would like to collaborate/share ideas or be part of what Louise and those involved in Ballygar Mental Health Awareness and Promotion are trying to achieve, they can get in touch at louholian@gmail.com or through the group’s Facebook page.