Mental health initiative Flourish is attempting to set an Irish record for the largest group of surfers paddling out to sea at once as it bids to raise funds for a community mental health facility in Sligo town.
The inaugural ‘Big Board Meeting’, which takes place on September 17, will see surfers paddle out beyond the waves at Rosses Point beach where they will join hands to form a circle, a ritual often performed as a mark of respect following the death of a surfer.
A first of its kind in Ireland, the event is open to surfers of all abilities with organisers hopeful of drawing a number large enough to rival the 500 surfers who attended a similar paddle out in Huntington Beach, California in 2017. Participants and spectators will not go hungry either, with food trucks onsite serving worldly cuisines before and after the 2pm start.
There is an entry fee of €20 for all surfers taking part in the Rosses Point event, while Flourish welcomes further sponsorship from individual surfers and private businesses, as well as donations to basket collections on the day. To register or donate click here: https://www.tickettailor.com/events/flourish/693106
All funds raised will go towards the set-up costs of the new volunteer-led facility, which has been set up on the site of a once-overgrown garden centre on the Clarion Road in the Ballytivnan area of Sligo town.
Ballytivnan has long been associated with psychiatric care. The nearby Clarion Hotel was previously St Columba’s Hospital, Sligo’s psychiatric hospital, until its closure in 1992. The site in which the Flourish garden and building now sit were part of the lands that were used to farm the food for the hospital and provided therapeutic horticulture to those who accessed the services.
The new site will be home to a revamped garden centre, as well as a bricks and mortar premises containing a café, kitchen, and safe and welcoming spaces to access supports.
The project aims to create a bridge between voluntary organisations like Flourish and statutory services like HSE Primary Care and Mental Health and Wellbeing supports, helping to both alleviate pressure on front-line hospital services and provide bespoke care at a dedicated facility for people in need.
Visitors to the facility can talk with trained volunteers, join an event or activity, or simply enjoy the café and gardens. The café will be open to the public and retain the same hours as the facility.
The gardens will provide fresh produce for the café’s edible offerings, while the volunteer-led Supper Club will bring together people living alone and facilitate dialogue and broader conversation through a series of cooking seminars.
The facility will also be used to train up to 300 community volunteers in key skills such as active listening and suicide prevention.
Flourish representative Hugh Myles said: “Everyone at Flourish is excited about our inaugural Big Board Meeting at Rosses Point beach on September 17 and we’re really hopeful that we can both set an Irish record and beat the 500 total set by surfers at Huntington Beach in California.
“As we’re an organisation based in Sligo, a county synonymous with surfing and the great outdoors, the ritual of surfers paddling out and joining hands seemed a particularly poignant way to remember those who have tragically died as a result of suicide across the North West.
“It’s taken three years to get to the point where Sligo is going to have a facility for the community providing a locally-based menu of supports to those who feel they need support with their mental health. We’re a volunteer-led organisation so fundraising is vital to getting the project running to its maximum potential.
“This facility will be the first of its type in Ireland, one for people who need to feel comfortable to talk. The café and gardens are designed to serve as an ice-breaker for people in crisis, while our training centre will help supply up to 300 volunteers with training in active listening. Eventually, the facility will be open 24/7, providing a round-the-clock refuge to those in need.”
Fourish has also established a GoFundMe page at https://gofund.me/8f6cadcf