A NORTH Kerry village is taking a leading role in promoting mental health and wellbeing among locals and none other than singer Sinead O'Connor is lending her support to the initiative.
The world-famous singer was delighted to launch the new initiative in Listowel on Saturday - where she was met by lots of fans at the Listowel Family Resource Centre.
It was all about the Community of Excellence in Mental Health Awareness and Well-Being initiative launched by the North and East Kerry Development agency. It is looking for a village from north and east Kerry to come on board as a role model for other villages in the pilot project.
Sinéad O'Connor, who has battled her own demons over the years, spoke movingly of how important she believed such a project could prove for the whole community of north Kerry.
Her presence certainly brought a big dollop of happiness for those who gathered, not least Moyvane girl Rachel O'Gorman and Glin friend Laura Enright. Both girls realised a huge dream when they sang for their musical hero and got to spend some time with her afterwards.
The Community of Excellence in Mental Health Awareness and Well-Being is the name of the new pilot project and the NEKD are calling on north and east Kerry
villages to get involved.
With increasing levels of suicide and mental health problems being associated with the recession, the NEKD say the programme is vitally important. The chosen village will become a focus for activities supporting mental health, with everything from physical fitness and nutrition courses to peer-support mentoring with counselling.
Key people will be trained to help others with their struggles.
"It is becoming increasingly evident that mental health and wellbeing need to be nurtured and protected," Lorraine Bowler of the NEKD said.
"We are all vulnerable in today's society and many people are trying to get through hard times. This project is about our people striving for better and living life as happily as they can in a flourishing community."
The Listowel Family Resource Centre and the Kerry Mental Health Association as well as Ruah Holistic Centre are on board as partners of the NEKD. The chosen community will receive a special plan in mental health awarewess as well as a prize of €1,500 to put towards an innovative project of their own.
"Our vision for this 'Community of Excellence' is a community where all ages come together, and support each other in understanding modern day pressures and how they impact on mental health," Ms Bowler said.