Walking back to happiness as odd shoes worn to support mental health

Fri, Apr 27, 2012, 01:00

HUNDREDS OF people braved the wind and rain to join the first Walk In My Shoes stroll around Dublin’s docklands yesterday.

The campaign, by St Patrick’s Hospital Foundation, aims to reduce the stigma around mental illness and to raise funds to support young adults in need of mental health services.

It encouraged people to wear mismatching or unusual shoes yesterday and to donate money to the campaign.

St Patrick’s chief executive Paul Gilligan said the idea came from a young man attending the hospital who said he wished that his friends could walk in his shoes so they could understand his mental illness.

“Unfortunately talking about mental illness is still taboo, so through Walk In My Shoes we are hoping to get the message across that mental illness can affect anyone at any time and talking about it is vital,” Mr Gilligan said.

“International statistics tell us that 75 per cent of all mental health difficulties begin before the age of 24 and we also know that early intervention is key to recovery.

“So it’s imperative that we encourage vulnerable young adults to seek help when they need it.”

RTÉ broadcaster John Murray led the team of walkers, including rugby pundits Brent Pope and Alan Quinlan, around the docklands while Horslips and The Hothouse Flowers performed.

The campaign is also supported by jockeys including Barry Geraghty, Davy Russell and brother and sister duo Katie and Ruby Walsh.

U2 bass player Adam Clayton, snooker player Ken Doherty and publisher Norah Casey are promoting the campaign.

Clayton said “money raised will be used to help put young people back on the road to mental health. That’s why I’m supporting Walk in My Shoes.”

Casey, the Dragons’ Den entrepreneur, led a walk around the Dundrum shopping centre. “One in five young people in Ireland suffers from psychological distress,” she said. “We’ve got to start talking about mental health.”

Funds raised by Walk in My Shoes will be spent on young adults’ mental health care services in community clinics and at St Patrick’s University Hospital.

A host of Irish celebrities have donated shoes to the hospital to support the campaign ( walkinmyshoes.ie).

They include Una Healy from The Saturdays and broadcasters Miriam O’Callaghan, Marty Whelan and Geri Maye.