Over the past two weeks, the Cycle Against Suicide has made it’s way along the perimeter of Ireland, covering 1,400km and touching the hearts of tens of thousands of people along the way.
The aim of the cycle is threefold: firstly, to raise awareness of suicide and depression, secondly, to spread the message that “it’s ok not to feel ok” and “it’s more than ok to ask for help”, thirdly, to direct people towards the many local and national organisations that can help people who are suffering.
The idea for the cycle originated with entrepreneur Jim Breen, after visiting a suicide awareness group in Dublin as part of the RTE TV documentary “The Secret Millionaire” last summer. Meeting these volunteers and experiencing the amazing work that they carry out had a profound effect on Jim and he made a long-term vow to help them in their battle against suicide in Ireland….thus, the cycle was born!
I met Jim Breen last October 2012 at the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards. I was instantly struck by Jim’s energy and passion for his project and I said that I would love to get involved. Several months later, as fate would have it, Jim and I ended up on RTE’s “The Late Late Show” on the same night! Jim was speaking about the cycle alongside radio DJ Colm Hayes, model Roz Purcell and Will Lynch whilst I performed with my band “Perfect Friction”. After the show, Jim and I discussed how I could officially get involved with the cycle and we (Jim!!) decided that I would be the perfect person to organise the halfway-cycle party in County Galway! Jim’s brother Tim and nephew Aidan soon joined me on the organisational team and together we spent the next few weeks arranging the big bash for April 27th in Galway city.
April 22nd soon arrived and the cycle took off with great excitement from the RTE studios in Dublin. Over the next 14 days, the cycle travelled 1,400km through many adventures, punctures, tumbles, rain and strong winds, stopping in 28 different towns around the country. In each of these 28 towns, the CAS team hosted informative sessions on mental health and suicide in local schools and universities. These sessions also involved powerful talks from guest speakers such as “The Voice” judge Bressie, model Roz Purcell and Sand2Snow adventurer Maghnus Collins, all spreading the message that “it’s ok not to feel ok and it’s more than ok to ask for help”.
Our halfway party in Galway was a roaring success and we were delighted to treat several hundred tired and thirsty cyclists to a wonderful night of entertainment. We had five fantastic bands for the night: KeyWest, Frankie Gavin, Hozier, Babylon Sisters and Cotton Ball Three (yes, I sang too!). The wonderful Amanda Fennelly from RTE took on responsbility for the finish line party in Dublin on May 5th and this also turned out to be fantastic night with performances from Róísín Ó, Gavin Glass, The Heathers and Taken. All of the musicians involved in both Galway and Dublin gave their time for free and acted as such wonderful ambassadors for the campaign. Thank you all very much for sharing your talents with us.
So now, the cycle has come to an end. Unfortunately, I could only join in for two days of cycling as prior work engagements prevented me from leaving Dublin. However, two days was still enough to give me a taste of the infectious energy of the cycle and I’m finding it nearly impossible to put into words the incredible sense of community that I felt during those two short days. The sheer number of people who lined the streets in cheer to show their support for the cycle as it passed through towns and villages is a testament in itself. Not to mention all of the wonderful people who opened their homes up to host cyclists every evening and all of those who catered snack breaks and lunches for every pitstop along the way! I know that this is the start of a very special movement in Ireland and I have no doubt that the Cycle Against Suicide will make it’s way to an international stage in the near future too. I am delighted that here in Ireland, we as a nation have come together to tackle the issue of mental health and suicide, a subject which has been stigmatised for far too long.
So, a huge congratulations to Jim Breen, Dee McMahon, the 5,000 cyclists who took part and all of the volunteers from across the country for delivering a very powerful message to the people of Ireland. Here’s to the adventures, the new friendships and to the many amazing people who shared their stories along the way…..I am so privileged to have been apart of this experience and I feel very inspired by you all.
“Together, shoulder to shoulder, we can break the cycle of suicide in Ireland”
P.S. Next year I promise to cycle the whole trip!