Written by Ruth O’Connell, co-op placement student at LMHA.
On Thursday November 9th I attended the Connecting for Life conference in Thomond Park, Limerick. Organised by the Connecting for Life Mid-West Implementation Group, this conference was held in order to celebrate and mark the Connecting for Life Mid-West Suicide Prevention Action Plan 2017-2020. The theme of the conference was ‘Are We Connected?’ This conference was structured so that attendees had the opportunity to listen to a series of informative and interesting speakers and to participate in two of six interactive workshops. Given the beloved nature of the venue, attendees were also treated to a tour of Thomond Park. Although this was a memorable event, it is the talks and John McElhinney’s workshop that will stay with me.
I attended the conference along with my manager Claire Flynn and colleague Shauna Lillis from the Limerick Mental Health Association to help facilitate a workshop that was delivered and run by John McElhinney. Consequently, I didn’t experience any of the other workshops –although I heard great things! However, I thoroughly enjoyed participating in John’s interactive workshop. John is the Mid-West Development Officer with Mental Health Ireland. John’s workshop focused on helping us to live life positively by actively looking after ourselves in our everyday life. John utilised the concept of an instruction manual to help us visualise and understand how we should try to get to know ourselves and develop effective coping and self-care practices before we experience difficulties as opposed to trying to find solutions in the midst of a crisis. This was an interactive and lively workshop that engaged the room and taught us all invaluable life lessons.
The conference opened with a series of talks that were informative and/or inspirational in nature. For instance, Mary Kennedy, Resource Officer for Suicide Prevention in the HSE gave us an enlightening and interesting update on the progress of the Connecting for Life Mid-West Suicide Prevention Action Plan 2017-2020. Mark Sparling, Mental Health HSE Mid-West also spoke and provided us with a context and backdrop for the information and theme of the conference. All those who spoke did so eloquently, articulately and with great expertise and knowledge.
The keynote speaker of the event was Dr Sharon Lambert. Sharon teaches Applied Psychology in University College Cork (UCC). Her research focuses on trauma, its effect on development and the connection with substance abuse and mental health. She is also interested in the structure and delivery of mental health and substance abuse services in Ireland. Sharon’s talk focused largely on her research. She managed to speak about such intense and complicated issues with passion, humour and warmth. It was a fascinating and extremely enjoyable presentation. Many commented afterwards (myself included!) that they could easily have spent the entirety of the day listening to her speak about her expertise and knowledge.
Overall the conference was a great success. It was very well attended and helped foster an atmosphere of hope, joy and knowledge. It was an event to be remembered and hopefully to be repeated in the future!