Up to 2,000 cyclists set off in nationwide Cycle Against Suicide event
Around 2,000 cyclists will participate in Cycle Against Suicide and travel across the country as the event set off from Swords, Dublin, this morning.
Now in its fifth year, Cycle Against Suicide is a signpost mental health organisation set up by Jim Breen and Colm Hayes, formerly of 2FM. The cycle is set to run until May 6th.
"Back in 2012, Jim Breen approached me. I was presenting a talk show on 2FM at that stage and he had a huge concern about the level of suicide in Ireland and about the mental health and the mental wellbeing of young people," Hayes said.
"He came up with this idea to have a cycle, we would have this two week cycle that would go across Ireland, promoting our message, raising awareness."
The cyclists are set to travel from Dublin, up to Belfast, across to Mayo and Galway, before making their way back across to the capital through Limerick, Tipperary and Carlow, to raise awareness for mental health.
Cycle Against Suicide aims to promote mental health within schools, with events, projects, performances and motivational speakers due to visit 28 schools along the cycle route.
The cycle set off from North Street in Swords at 10:30am this morning and are set to travel to Drogheda and Dundalk before the day ends.
Appearances were made at the starting line by Colm Hayes himself, along with Al Porter and the Mayor of Fingal Darragh Butler.
Hayes initially decided to get involved with the project when Mr. Breen approached him because he had dealt with many mental health stories during his time on 2FM.
"I had spoken to a huge amount of people on the talk show to do with mental health and mental wellbeing so it was also something I wanted to promote as much as I could.
"I think we do an appalling job of it in Ireland. We’re afraid to talk about it, we hide in the corner and the government doesn't help either by underfunding mental health in such a terrible way," Hayes said.
"It’s something we really need to become more vocal about. 800 people this year will take their lives in Ireland. That’s more than the lives we’ll lose on the roads and look at the money the government puts into road safety, we’re not putting the same amount of money into the prevention of suicide or the prevention of mental health," he said.
Hayes noted that there are many levels to why the local community should get involved with the event.
"It can be quite cathartic for people whereby they have been affected by bad mental health or maybe suicide in their family or friends and it helps them because they believe that they’re doing something that’s important," he said.
Due to the event running across the country for almost two weeks and with many participants cycling for days, if not the whole two weeks, Cycle Against Suicide make use of volunteers opening their doors up to cyclists for homestays.
"People open up their homes and give us homestays across Ireland. Again, I’ve staying in a number of the homestays and some people really want to help because they understand the value of positive mental health.
"Everyone realises this is very important for the mental well being of Ireland but at the very time the money isn’t pushed through properly to the mental health services," Hayes said.
Organisations that Cycle Against Suicide support include Samaritans, Tusla, ISPCC, Teenline Ireland, Tearnaige Suicide Bereavement Support, North Dublin Drug & Alcohol Task.