Focus on getting back on track

Posted on: 10th September, 2015

Category: Health & Lifestyle

Contributor: West Cork People

Someday I will be free by Michelle McDermott I don’t know why this has happened me and I don’t expect you to understand Life doesn’t always go accordingly or how you’ve always planned. Everybody has a dream which they would like to fulfil Mine is to work with my mind as a team to find myself I know in time I will. I long for the day to wake up and feel totally complete For the day will come where I’ll win my cup and stand on my own two feet.

Initiating its sixth year in Clonakilty this September, Focus is a little known but highly successful course that helps people get their lives back on track after a mental health setback.

Interviews for the 12-month no-fee programme, run by National Learning Network and funded by the HSE, start in August and September 2015. Programme participants receive a training allowance of €31.80 per week to offset any course-related expenses like attending leisure or cultural events; and importantly, social welfare payments are not impacted.

A non-therapeutic training programme, Focus facilitates people to develop confidence, knowledge and skills to gain more control over their future. The course is deliverd by a team of three instructors and covers a wide range of activities including art, fitness, healthy lifestyles, cookery, relaxation techniques, computers, and health and safety. There is also support from Manager Patrick Murphy, a Rehabilitation Psychologist and an Outreach Support Worker.

“The Focus group helped me realise I am not alone. The support from the group has earned me new friends. It’s a nice feeling to walk down the street and have someone say hello,” said one participant.

Another participant commented, “I found there was a great support network and understanding from the tutors. Being in a routine settled me and allowed me to look forward to the day. It has been a great year and I will miss it really, but its onwards and upwards now, as I have found myself work again and this wouldn’t have become a reality without this course. I would highly recommend this course to everybody as I firmly believe it brought out the best in me.”

Participants have the option of completing FETAC/QQI level 3 certification. The core course elements include personal development focusing on confidence building and communication skills; community integration focusing on learning what supports are available in your area and how to access and utilise them; physical and mental wellbeing; improving your mental health self-management skills, completing a WRAP course and stress management; and vocational exploration focusing on improving your employment related skills and work placement.

Focus works with people to identify their strengths and build their skills to help people move towards a positive change in life. By working within local communities, with local employers and community groups, the Focus course assists people who feel isolated due to their mental health issue to find the confidence to take the next step to education or employment and to take part in community again.

Previous course participants have advocated through The West Cork Mental Health Consumer Panel and a group of former trainees helped to establish Clonakilty Rainbow Group (peer support group for people who have or are suffering mental distress). This year’s Focus course has been no different with active community involvement in West Cork Wellness week and drumming sessions with Kevin Shannahan. An emphasis this year has been on developing communication skills and writer Ronnie McGinn has delivered writing workshops to the participants with many people experiencing the success of publication in The Examiner and The Echo. The group also run an allotment in the Clonakilty Allotment.

Is the programme for you? These questions might help. Do you feel isolated?; Have you, or did you in the past have a mental health difficulty?; Do you think you would benefit from building a routine and structure into your day?; Are you at a loss, want to get back on track, and don’t know where to start?; Are you ready for a change?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions then contact Elva, Lee or Mairin at the Focus Programme, Clonakilty on 087 231 6919.

National Learning Network, in partnership with Cork Education and training Board (CETB) and the Health Service Executive (HSE), provides full-time rehabilitative and employment training courses for persons with additional support needs due to injury, illness or disability to over 300 people at its centres in Clonakilty, Bantry in West Cork and Mallow, Hollyhill, Model Farm Road and Penrose Wharf in Cork city, Bantry.

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