Saturday, 14 February 2009


Don’t Suffer Alone
Inishowen Men’s Helpline
Free and Confidential Service
Offering support, understanding and information
Available Monday-Friday 9am-10pm
Tel 074 9329300

Inishowen Men’s Helpline celebrates its second birthday
“Big boys don’t cry!” “Take your oil!” “Get on with it!” These stereotypes still exist all over Ireland.

“Real men” don’t whine about their physical, mental or emotional problems. They work it out, suck it up and walk it off. As children, boys play a lot of physical games and traditionally didn’t talk about their thoughts and emotions, so they never got much practice in using words to describe their feelings. This inability to name emotions means that men often dismiss problems and hide depression and loneliness through overwork, drinking, anger or withdrawal. Sometimes men don’t even realise they are depressed.

Two years ago a group of local men, some with their own history of mental health problems who had had positive experiences of seeking help, decided to do set up the Inishowen Men’s Helpline. They saw the success of the Inishowen Women’s Outreach Project and felt there was a need for the men of Inishowen to also have support and guidance on personal matters. A spokesman from the helpline explains.

“Society has changed a lot over the past thirty years and men don’t have the same support structures in place that past generations have had. At one time men would meet up in their houses for an evening of chat. These social evenings (a ceilidh) provided a bit of company and an opportunity to meet others and have a bit of craic, but it was also a place where men could talk problems through. There was also far less competitiveness in every day life. If work on the farm became stressful, then the community would get together and help out. It is different now. Television has led to people staying at home and people are busier and more self-sufficient. This leads to greater isolation.”

Isolation is a big problem for many men particularly in rural areas, but there are lots of other difficulties that local men have where they could use a listening ear. Financial difficulties are a major problem for a lot of people at the moment, drinking too much can cause a lot of harm in many areas of your life and often men are worried about health and sexuality issues. Sometimes men, not realising they have a problem, avoid them until they become so big they seem insurmountable.

Inishowen Men’s Helpline (Tel 074 9329300) offers a totally private and confidential listening ear service. With funding from the HSE and the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltact Affairs, the Helpline has trained up ten volunteers (including two women as not all the callers feel comfortable talking to another man), for their listening ear service. There is also a trained professional counsellor available. The Helpline also has connections with a network of support services and agencies and if a caller needs specific help, they can refer them on to the best service to meet their specific needs. A spokesman says,

“ Often just putting problems into words can reduce their impact on your life…problems can be put into perspective and resolved.”

The service was officially opened two years ago this month by Daniel O’Donnell and has grown significantly in this time. When they started the phone line was only available on a Wednesday evening and Saturday morning, now the volunteers can offer their impartial and sympathetic support Monday to Friday from 9am to 10pm. Volunteers are always needed to provide the best service available to callers and full training is provided.. So if you are interested in volunteering or you need a sympathetic listening ear, you can call the confidential Helpline on 074 9329300.

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