72-year-old Limavady woman walking 72km to raise funds for local mental health services

72-year-old Limavady woman walking 72km to raise funds for local mental health services

A 72-year-old retired primary school teacher from Limavady is walking 72km this month in aid of local mental health charity, AWARE NI. Evelyn McGettigan developed depression 43 years ago and says her personal experience has inspired her to take on the challenge:

My illness started with postnatal depression after my first daughter was born. Following the birth of my second child, life had become busy and stressful, and I then had a hospital admission after being diagnosed with acute clinical depression.

Over the next forty years, Evelyn experienced several difficult periods with depression, resulting in numerous hospital admissions. Following her most recent hospital stay in 2007, she joined AWARE's local support group and has attended ever

(Evelyn walking with dog Lily in Roe Valley Country Park)         since.

The support from the AWARE group has been a lifesaver. I was very upset at the first meeting. Fortunately, my husband was with me and able to speak on my behalf. I could sense that those there were very understanding and compassionate. I continued to attend AWARE's support meetings as even though my depression had improved, it was still beneficial to me knowing that others understood what I was going through.

There is still a stigma around mental illness, which has improved a little [over time], but the public still needs to be educated. Any form of mental illness can affect people in different ways, and if you have never suffered, it is very difficult to understand what someone is going through. At the very time when you feel at your lowest, it is often then when you find it most difficult to explain how you actually feel, she said.

Margaret McCrossan, Community and Events Fundraising Offer at AWARE, said:

"With one in five adults in Northern Ireland experiencing mental health problems at some stage of their life, experiences like Evelyn's, are very common. We are incredibly grateful to Evelyn for raising awareness and vital funds to help us continue to support thousands of people affected by mental illness across the country. We're wishing Evelyn all the best for the remainder of her challenge."

AWARE's free-to-attend support groups welcome people living with depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. The groups provide a safe space to meet with others on a similar journey who can understand, encourage and suggest helpful coping methods. AWARE also delivers mental health awareness courses to schools, workplaces, community groups, and hospitals to equip people with the tools they need to best look after their minds.

To find out how AWARE can help, go to www.aware-ni.org

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