Fundaising clock now ticking for charities with a very special place in Alan's heart

COLEMANS Garden Centre employee Alan McDowell has launched a year-long project to help raise awareness of mental ill health and funds for two important charities.

His aim is to raise funds during 2019 to support PIPS and CAUSE - two charities, according to Alan, which are at the coalface of supporting those who are experiencing mental ill health and those who are carers of a loved one with mental illness.

“I have chosen PIPS because I believe they provide an instant service for those people who are experiencing intense distress and despair and who are feeling suicidal and that life is not worth living,” Alan said as he launched the initiative in Templepatrick last Tuesday (January 15).

“If you are at the end of your tether and need urgent help, one of PIPS’ professional counsellors will see you straight away; there is no waiting time which is so important.

“They offer a ‘no appointment’ walk-in service.

“When a person comes to PIPS for help, they will be spoken to immediately by the Triage Team who start a stay safe/support plan.

“Weekly one to one counselling sessions, which are completely confidential, are then offered by one of PIPS’ 76 volunteer professionally trained counsellors.

“PIPS offer counselling and befriending seven days a week, which includes three late nights.”

Alan, who experienced mental ill health himself for several years, added: “The second mental health charity that I choose to support is CAUSE, a charity that supports carers of people with severe mental illness including psychosis, schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, personality disorder, severe depression and anxiety.

“The welfare of those families and friends who are caring for a loved one with mental ill health is often overlooked even though their role is particularly difficult, exhausting and stressful – often having to give up employment, friends and social life to provide 24/7 care as well as deal with the associated stigma.

“Most of the time, it is the person experiencing mental ill health that gets all of the attention and support.

“For the duration of my illness, I was so fortunate to have the love and support of my late parents, my then wife, family and some very close friends.”

Alan said that in his experience, many carers of loved ones with mental ill health are unaware that there is help and support available to them.

He continued: “Over the next 12 months I am committed to raising the profile of CAUSE in Northern Ireland to ensure all carers are aware of the fantastic support they provide in the community.

“There is no other charity like CAUSE in NI.”

CAUSE’S Outreach Support Service is staffed by 13 Carer Advocates working across NI delivering front-line services to those mental health carers in need of practical and emotional support.

CAUSE Carer Advocates provide families, partners and friends with help tailored to what they need to cope with in their care-giving-role.

A Carer Advocate can meet with a carer face to face at a location convenient to them or discuss issues with them over the phone.

“Looking back, I feel my experience of having mental ill health has made me a stronger person,” Alan says.

“I now appreciate the simple things in life like being able to laugh and smile again.

“I am so grateful to have a warm, safe, comfortable home, enough money to put food on the table, the energy and enthusiasm to help and support other people in need and am so fortunate to have supportive, generous, kind and caring friends.

“To those people who are currently experiencing mental illness, I am living proof that you can make a good recovery with the correct help and support.”

Alan is urging Antrim Guardian readers to support his worthwhile campaign.

*The Just Giving page for CAUSE is www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Alan-McDowell2

*The Just Giving details for PIPS is www.justgiving.com/pipsspireland

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