Cork mental health charity is preparing for fall-out of Covid-19

Lisheens House is planning to expand the work it does, with a new centre, dedicated to children, adolescent and family services in Skibbereen. CHRIS DUNNE talks to founder, Noreen Murphy
Cork mental health charity is preparing for fall-out of Covid-19

Sandra O'Donovan, from near Bandon who undertook an amazing 500,000 steps in May in aid of Lisheens House and raised an equally amazing €3380.

THE past year and a half has been an incredibly challenging time for all of us. And for Lisheens House, Preventing Suicide and Self Harm, the past 18 months have proved the most challenging since the service started back in 2014 in Clonakilty.

“So, we have decided to buy a building in Skibbereen which will be dedicated to child and adolescent plus family services alongside counselling rooms and training suites,” says Noreen Murphy, from Kealkill, West Cork.

Noreen lost her husband Donal to suicide in September, 2007. The tragedy prompted her to found Lisheens House in 2014

Covid-19 has affected us all in one way or another.

“It has affected all of us,” acknowledges Noreen, who is the mother of three boys.

“From fear of the virus itself to the changes to our work, education, recreation, socialising and our everyday living. Based on the volume of calls we have received in this time, we feel the time has come for us to prepare for fall-out and for the inevitable legacy of this pandemic.”

People recognises the need of and the value of the free services Lisheens House offers to people. People like Bandon woman, Sandra O’Donovan, who undertook an amazing 500,000 steps in aid of Lisheens House, raising €3,380.

“Sandra’s wonderful donation is going directly to our dedicated building fund to finance the renovations of this building,” says Noreen.

“Thanks to Sandra, these funds are the foundation block on which our new dedicated centre will be built, and families throughout Cork will be able to avail of our free services,” adds Noreen.

Lisheen’s House aims to connect people and to connect them to the services it provides.

“We try to accommodate people near to where they live,” says Noreen.

“The building in North Street, Skibbereen, is old and in need of a revamp. Hopefully, some Cork businesses might come on board and help us with the funding necessary for us to open our doors to the public.”

Family services alongside counselling and training suites, will also be available at Lisheens House, Skibbereeen.

“We viewed the building and put a bid on it last month and we hope to progress to sale agreed in the very near future,” says Noreen, who is looking to the future post-pandemic.

“The global pandemic that spread around the world caused serious social and economic problems and it created a lot of new, life-altering experiences for people everywhere,” says Noreen.

Our world changed dramatically overnight.

“Covid threw up a series of issues that people were otherwise unfamiliar with before the outbreak of the virus,” says Noreen.

What kind of issues faced us?

“The pandemic of loneliness and isolation is widespread since Covid broke out,” explains Noreen.

Normal living became alien to us.

“Social distancing had to be observed to delay the spread of the virus.

“During lockdown, families were isolated from loved ones and social interaction was a non-event.”

Lisheen’s House still operated their free helpline during Covid.

“While our helpline was still in operation, people with mental health issues missed the one-to-one connection with a counsellor or with the other people who come to Lisheens House to have a chat, a cuppa, or to use the library,” says Noreen.

We are all human.

“Human contact is so important,” stresses Noreen.

“People felt isolated more than ever before, especially those living in rural Ireland.”

Loneliness was like a tsunami sweeping the country at the height of lockdown.

“Loneliness has become a big problem in modern Ireland,” says Noreen.

“The sense of being disconnected was exacerbated during lockdown. Nobody could walk in to us and talk about how alone they felt.”

Elaine and Ciaran from Fusion Home Interiors donated over €2500 worth of Farrow & Ball paints to Lisheens House Suicide Prevention Service.
Elaine and Ciaran from Fusion Home Interiors donated over €2500 worth of Farrow & Ball paints to Lisheens House Suicide Prevention Service.

Isolation and loneliness affects people in all walks of life.

“Isolation and loneliness has a huge impact on our mental health,” says Noreen, who hopes the new building in North Street, Skibbereen, will be able to welcome people in to avail of its free services very soon when it opens for business.

“Mental health is everybody’s business,” says Noreen, whose husband Donal suffered from mental health problems. The concept of Lisheens House was conceived by her seven years after Donal died.

“I had no experience when I thought of opening Lisheens House,” says Noreen, who found herself a widow at 41.

But she had other experiences.

“I had the experience of living with someone with acute depression and the awful aftermath of suicide and the legacy it leaves in its wake.”

Mental health is everybody’s business.

“It is not a taboo subject anymore,” says Noreen.

“There is a change on how people view mental health. When we are fund-raising, donors often say, ‘we don’t give to anything. But we give to that’.

“Mental health affects everybody in one way or another. We need to reach out to people in our community.”

Noreen comes across vulnerable people all the time who are worried about their current situations and about the future.

“Covid changed everything,” she says.

A lot of situations in homes across the country have changed.

“University students and adult children have come back to live with their parents,” says Noreen.

“That can create a stressful situation in the home.”

Life changed utterly for many people.

“Often, college students are used to a lot of company in a busy town or city, enjoying an active social life,” says Noreen.

“The transition moving back home is hard to manoeuvre.”

Moving about was hard to manoeuvre when the pandemic hit.

“Travel restrictions were hard on everyone,” says Noreen.

“Living rurally, often the highlight of the day or the week is to go into town shopping, or to the cafe for a coffee, visit a neighbour, or go to the cinema.

“In lockdown all our social activities were curtailed.

“We experienced a huge volume of calls. It has been really busy.”

Noreen says she is glad things are beginning to open up again.

“Meeting up with each other is good for our mental health,” she says. “Human contact is important.”

Noreen is confident that Lisheens House, Skibbereen, will open up this year.

“I’m sure this will work out and that we will get a lot of support.

“Already there are a lot of donations coming in.”

For more on their services, or how you can help, email:

West Cork Suicide Prevention Centre is opened Monday to Saturday.

Helpline: 023-8888888

Donations of quality used items and furniture can also be dropped to premises on Main Street, Skibbereen, as the charity sells the items and reinvests the money into its services. Call 086-1721269 to arrange collection.

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