Pieta House West – offering their support


Tom McEvoy is pictured at work in Pieta House West in Tuam.
?Tom McEvoy is pictured at work in Pieta House West in Tuam.?Pic: Ray Ryan

Offering their support

Tom McEvoy epitomises what Pieta House West is all about

Willie McHugh

“MOST people who come in the door of Tuam’s Pieta House seeking help go out to live full and active lives afterwards.” The words of Tom McEvoy, Director of Advocacy at Pieta House, echoing the success rate of its West of Ireland centre.
People of all age categories, ranging from children as young as four, are now using the centre for the prevention of suicide or self-harm. The demographic of clients availing of the service changes too, and they generally mirror image the happenings in society.
Pieta House noticed an increase in the number of farmers availing of their services during the winter fodder crisis two years ago. While Tom is reluctant to cite any particular scion of social media advances for the rise in the number of young people attending the centre, nevertheless it can be a contributory factor if not properly monitored.
“We never had more methods of communications than we have now, and yet people are communicating less and less on a personal level,” Tom told The Mayo News when we visited their well-appointed centre in Tuam recently.
“There’s Facebook, texting and tweeting but good old-fashioned dialogue and conversation between people is far more beneficial. Talking and engaging with each other is still the key to detecting mental issues. You can never tell through texting or e-mailing how someone is feeling but sitting down and having a chat is still the best method of finding out. Talking is more important now than ever.”
Currently Pieta House is involved with the IFA in an initiative titled, ‘Mind our Farm Families’. It’s a follow on to Pieta House’s ‘Mind Our Men’ programme. It’s mainly because of the high rate of suicides, particularly in rural areas, that the IFA got involved and became the driving force in setting up this service.
An average of ten people die by suicide every week (eight of them are men) and Tom McEvoy speaks of the importance of spotting the danger signals.
“The house here is not operated 24/7 so part of what we’re trying to highlight is if someone notices something they’ll get in touch with us to arrange an appointment. We don’t normally offer a drop-in service but, if someone comes, we never turn them away and we have emergency slots too for someone who needs immediate help.
“What we’re trying to promote is getting people to access the service available in Pieta House before getting to the absolute end crisis.
“When people come to Pieta House they are often referred by their GP,” he added,
“But, while they don’t need a referral it’s necessary to make a phone call in advance, either from a family member or the person themselves who requires the help. The likelihood is it’s a family member who makes the initial contact and the call normally comes from a female.
“In our view, once the request for help is made, and the person needing it crosses the threshold, they are already on the road to recovery. Once they arrive we hope when a staff member comes out to greet them with a cup of tea or coffee it’s our way of making them feel welcomed. The compassion shown to them on arrival is a part of the therapeutic programme. “They can be assured of discretion and confidentiality at all times. On their first visit they usually park around the back and come in the rear door. But what gives us the greatest satisfaction is, after a few visits, seeing them walk in the front door.”

A free service
BECAUSE Pieta House provides a free service, funding is an important part of Tom McEvoy’s remit. But not just his responsibility as he explains.
“Everyone working in Pieta House gets involved in raising necessary funds and that’s a role we all fulfil. Because we’re a ‘free of charge’ service funding is critical to the sustainability of the whole Pieta ideal.
“Twenty percent of our budget comes from the government and the rest is raised through community funding. When Pieta get a request to come into an area the region has to fully understand that they are going to have to continually fund the existence of the centre and that’s a huge commitment in its own right.
“What we are saying to a community is that, either they are behind this and totally dedicated to it, or else it won’t happen. Monies are raised through various efforts like the annual ‘Darkness into Light’ walk, golf classics and coffee mornings.
“In the Ard Ri House Hotel in Tuam we had a Halloween party and all proceeds from events like that go directly towards Pieta House. As long as we have that assistance in a region we’ll survive.”
Tom McEvoy’s work in raising the profile and opening further branches of Pieta House is ongoing.
“I’m just back from Donegal where we’ve established a very strong committee with a view to establishing a Pieta House there in the next year to eighteen months. We’re doing a lot of promotional work at the moment to create awareness and people are coming to us with different propositions they have for gathering the necessary funds.“We have nine houses in total in Ireland now. Three, including this one here in Tuam, were opened in 2013 and the last one was in January of this year. We’ve plans to open another home in Athlone also.”
Tuam is now a shining jewel in the Pieta crown.
“A lot of effort went in the design and layout of the building here. It was only a shell when we took it over. We leased it for a period of time with a view to staying here as long as we can, or certainly while there’s need. Pieta House doesn’t own any property outright. It’s either donator bequeathed or leased.”
Tom McEvoy epitomises all that’s good about Pieta House West.
Encountering him in the ambient setting of Pieta House you don’t know whether he’s a therapist, a client, or someone who’s accompanying a family member or a friend. His non-fussed presence is part of the Pieta ethos.
Pieta House in Tuam is the west’s much needed welcoming home. It’s where everyone matters most the second they cross the threshold.  

Pieta House West is this year’s Mayo News/O’Neills Club Stars charity partner.