Sunday 24 September 2017

#My1000Hours: 'Rural communities can run together against isolation'

The My1000Hours plan is a perfect focal point around which people in rural communities can support each other's wellbeing.

Niall Breslin
Niall Breslin
Niall Breslin

Niall Breslin

Rural Ireland, as stunning as it may be, can also be quite an isolating and reclusive environment. Communities tend to be quite cohesive and supportive in such areas, but in recent years, with the onslaught of the recession and resulting emigration, rural Ireland is having to rebuild and re-mould its social foundations in order to maintain its sense of identity and support structures.

Social isolation and lack of professional support services in areas such as these can often exacerbate underlining mental health issues for some individuals, and it's incredibly important in Ireland's more remote areas that communities magnetise, rather than polarise in these times of change.

Last weekend, I was approached by a lady wishing to speak to me about a potential campaign that she and some local friends wanted to implement in their area and surrounding communities, which would use the My1000Hours run as a focal point. The campaign - to be implemented in rural Leitrim, Roscommon and Galway -would encourage not only physical activity but, more importantly, social interaction among communities; it would provide a welcoming environment where people could have conversations about emotional wellbeing and issues they might be going through.

For those who can't partake in the physical training of the My1000Hours programme, they organised a get together afterwards to include them. They've launched a PR plan to maximise the campaign's exposure using local press and radio and got local politicians involved to help develop the project, and perhaps represent rural Ireland's requirements at a government level in a proactive way. They even organised a community party on the evening of the run to celebrate the fantastic initiative. To summarise, the project organisers:

• Arranged physical activities in a various areas in Galway, Roscommon and Leitrim, which will be followed by a get together - cup of tea and chat afterwards

• Launched the plan on local radio station, Shannon-Side, on Jan 23 along with local TD Michael Fitzmaurice, who is participating in My1000Hours himself

• Had an launch night on the Jan 26 with an information session followed by the first walk and get together

• Will post training times and dates, and mail all participants each week with the programme. There will be weekly walks every Sunday morning in Athlone town, Castlerea, Carrick-on-Shannon, Balladereen, Ballinasloe and Glenamaddy

• Secured full sponsorship of free refreshments by local premises at every location

• Printed T-shirts with the My1000Hours logo on them

• Will post all events and updates on the My1000Hours website, detailing progress and encouraging interaction

• Will run a bus on day of the My1000Hours run and arrange a dinner and entertainment, when they arrive home from the event, as a community night out.

This is an initiative entirely developed and created by a local community using the My1000Hours run as a focal point to help the local participants have a goal to aim at.

I am in no doubt that there are people in these communities that will benefit massively, and find it easier to seek help and support for whatever issues they may be facing, as a result of this project. So, although a community may be slightly secluded geographically, they are tightly knitted together emotionally. Do not underestimate the value of this. In some cases, this cohesion will save people's lives.

In some of these areas, the age demographic can be slightly older and discussing topics, such as depression and anxiety, can be more difficult. However, it can also be incredibly liberating and comforting for people, knowing that something that was veiled in secrecy decades ago is becoming completely acceptable and normal in society.

I put out a request recently, on the My1000hour website, for local ambassadors to come forward to help build this movement, and this is exactly what this community has achieved. I would sincerely encourage and promote other communities to build a similar plan. Send it to us at info@my1000hours.com and we will promote the initiative for you.

Send in photos and training progress and we will highlight it across our social media platforms. Don't wait for others in your area to start it. If you put a plan together, other communities will follow.

Put emotional wellbeing on the agenda in your community. The community will be a better place for it.

The Irish Independent My1000Hours 5k/10k in association with Berocca will take place on Saturday March 7.

You can sign-up for the event at www.FITMagazine.ie/events.

For more information on the work of the My1000Hours team, follow them at @my1000hours or go to www.my1000hours.com.

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