The event was hosted by Mitchelstown Macra in association with mental health organisations, First Fortnight and SeeChange.
A crowd from all backgrounds, macra, non-macra, farming and non-farming arrived into the Mart and were greeted by members of Mitchelstown Macra, who were handing out green ribbons to promote ‘See Change’s national Green Ribbon Campaign’, in order to encourage people to openly discuss mental health problems for the month of May.
Fiona Hennessy (Mitchelstown Macra Chair) welcomed the crowd to the event and introduced the concept of the event – to increase awareness of mental health and rural isolation in our communities, using the art form of media, to get the message across to all generations, and get people talking, one conversation at a time.
This was followed by a presentation from Macra President Sean Finan, who addressed the crowd and emphasised the importance of taking care of our mental health, especially in financially pressuring times for the Agriculture sector and expressed his support for all Macra events, that are doing their bit in the communities to promote mental well-being.
The brainchild of this whole event stood up next to address the crowd. Ellen Downey is both a Mitchelstown Macra member and SeeChange ambassador. She has worked tirelessly to promote mental well-being for those who are suffering in silence. She spoke passionately about the film, how it struck her the first time she saw it and how everyone should watch it as it is real, raw and very relevant today. Her key message to the audience was “You don’t have to be an expert to talk about mental health, anyone can start a conversation, anyone can ask those three little words ‘Are you ok’.”
The film commenced and for the 85 minutes, the crowd were ‘engrossed’ in the mundane life of Jimmy Walsh. For those who have not seen Pilgrim Hill, the film offers a quietly devastating portrait of the life of a farmer in Kerry acted by Cork man Joe Mullins (Ardpatrick). The film highlights a very raw and real perspective of rural isolation. It shows the pressures the farmer faces every day in not alone running a farm but also the impacts of social isolation. The distinct storyline tells the unspoken story of the lives of so many of our community.
After the film, three speakers spoke, JP Swaine (First Fortnight), Muara Canning (IFA Mental health campaign), and Tom Evans (Psychotherapist). After a much needed mindfulness exercise with Tom, the audience were invited for teas and coffees, to talk amongst themselves. Radio 1 Drivetime’s Graham Clifford attended the entire event and interviewed the speakers, as well as members of the audience which was broadcasted Thursday evening 5th May. The event closed with many pictures and Avondhu Macra na Feirme gifted €500 euro to First Fortnight.
‘Mitchelstown Macra are overwhelmed by the support for this event. This event simply would not be possible without the support of the Corrin Event Centre Fermoy, who so generously offered their venue and invited all their members to the evening. PJ English and Catherine Dorgan went above and beyond the call of duty to promote and help out in this event. Dairygold Co-operative Mitchelstown have given their full-hearted support to this initiative and welcomed the idea to invite their members, especially in such financial pressuring times.
We would also like to thank Gerry O’Sullivan and Pat O’Keeffe for all their support. The IFA also came on board and helped in promoting this event and special thank you to Billy Cotter for all his help along the way. We would also like to thank Supervalu Mitchelstown for donating local produce for hampers gifted to our speakers on the night. Other organisations also gave their full support and helped to advertise to their customers so we would like to thank Teagasc, McDonnell bros and Sourthern Milling for all their support also. Of course, Mitchelstown Macra received great support within their own organisation, with the Rural Youth Committee, Avondhu Macra and other Macra clubs rallying round to give their full support. Thanks to everyone who came to support this event and to everyone who shared the details with their family and friends – the response was immense!’
‘We hope that this event will encourage people to start talking, to be a friend to someone who is suffering, to look after your own mental well-being and to promote mental health in their own communities.’