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‘BUSIER THAN EVER’ Joe McGuire of MAASA.

Mayo mental-health charity faces soaring demand amid shrinking funds 

Ger Flanagan

DEMAND on mental-health services has never been higher as the country deals with the impact of the pandemic on the population’s wellbeing.
However, for such service providers as Mayo Addiction and Suicide Awareness based in Castlebar, increased financial pressure means it is a struggle to keep the doors open.
Their charity shop on Richard Street in Castlebar is their main breadwinner, making the charity completely self-sufficient in recent years, with the ‘odd church-gate collection’ supplementing the coffers.
But with neither of those income streams available in the current climate, financial constraints are adding much pressure to a service that is already under the cosh.
“We are crippled for funds because we cannot do any fundraising,” Joe McGuire of Mayo Addiction and Suicide Awareness told The Mayo News. “We have a charity shop here in Castlebar that is keeping our heads above water, and we do the odd church-gate collection which kept us going, but when that is all closed down we have no income at all.
“We have been self-sufficient up until now, and we don’t get funding from anybody. I always say that we don’t need a lot of money to do what we do, but we can’t do anything without.
“It’s tough at the minute, there’s no doubt about that, but we’re managing somehow.”

Pandemic fallout
While the doors of the charity shop are closed, the charity’s drop-in centre is still operating under Covid-19 guidelines and regulations.
It has been widely reported that the pandemic is causing huge mental stress and difficulties for people across the country, and Mayo Addiction and Suicide Awareness is swamped with inquiries.
“We are busier than we have ever been,” Joe added. “I have people coming in every day of the week to talk or looking for a bit of help, and it’s not easy for them.
“People are in a very, very bad place at the minute, and alcohol consumption at home is a huge issue and will be into the future. Drinking at home, there is no measure, no closing time and nobody to tell you to stop. Alcohol is so cheap in supermarkets, while at least in a pub you’re in a controlled environment.
“Another big issue we’re coming across is loneliness and it’s something I really don’t have an answer to unfortunately. I would say that one thing with this pandemic is that people aren’t rushing and racing as much and we are all getting to know our neighbours.
“But there is still a serious issue of loneliness out there because we can’t visit houses. You can only tell people to try and think positive, instead of watching rubbish on Youtube, watch videos that make you laugh or feel better. It’s small things like that.”
Joe and the rest of the staff and volunteers are answering their phones seven days a week to people who might need help. They are finding that people are more willing to open up about their struggles in light of the pandemic.

Eye on Ballina
Looking ahead to 2021 the charity is planning on opening up a centre in Ballina to deal with the large volumes of people who use their services from the North Mayo region, but with so much uncertainty right now, he says it’s difficult to know when it will happen.
“We have a premises got and we have everything ready to go, but when we can open we don’t know,” he said. “There is work to be done there and we can’t even do that as it would mean we have to travel.
“I don’t think we will be able to hold a church-gate collection in 2021, and I’m not sure if we will get any fundraising done in 2021. So it’s a very worrying time for charities, like ourselves, because our services are more in demand.
“We’re hoping the centre that when our doors open in Ballina that it will be a big positive because a service like this is needed in that area of the county, as we’re dealing with so many people.”

ILH 40084-21-02 Hastings Benefit MPU v4