The team at Via Wings are walking from Portrush to Dromore to raise awareness of mental health issues and raise funds to renovate the Via Wings Wellbeing Centre for all the community.
The charity, which has a dedicated and loyal team of volunteers based in Dromore, Co. Down, offers a wrap around service, aiming to support people in the community in a practical, non-judgemental way.
Via Wings told the Ulster Star: ‘‘We have an ‘any situation through the door’ policy when it comes to helping people, but the main issues we tackle are poverty and living on the bread line, social isolation, mental health issues, crisis and emergency situations.
‘‘Programmes we run include a foodbank, three social enterprises, counselling and mentoring, an afterschool club for disadvantaged children, an education and skills programme for young people with learning disabilities, an older peoples supper club, art and music therapy, and pastoral care for older and isolated people.
‘‘None of this would be possible without our amazing volunteers, many of whom have received some sort of support during their lives and now selflessly give back to their community.’’
The Via Wings representative added that on July 3, they will be taking on the challenge in honour of those suffering from mental health issues:
‘‘We will walk over 69 miles from Ramore to Dromore over three days, starting on July 1 at Ramore and finishing in our home town.
‘‘We will be joined along the way by volunteers, supporters and some doggo friends! If you would like to walk alongside us for part of the journey, get in touch.
‘‘At Via Wings, we believe mental health issues affect everyone at some point throughout life - our neighbour, your work colleague, your childs school friend, someone you love, and even yourself.
‘‘Northern Ireland has the highest rate of mental health issues in the UK with one in four affected. Children’s mental health illness is rising rapidly, especially since the Covid-19 pandemic.
‘‘Despite this, current referral times to receive help are a staggering six to nine weeks. Something has to change.
‘‘In our community, as in many other across the country we have witnessed first-hand the devastating effects of mental illness and suicide.
‘‘Not everyone can be ‘fixed’ but the aim of our Wellbeing Centre is to walk alongside those struggling and help to provide tools for coping through counselling, wellbeing therapies and mindfulness courses.
‘‘By taking on this challenge to walk from Ramore to Dromore, we walk beside those facing mental health challenges.
‘‘We will remember every step of the way, when we are sore and tired and feel like it is too much, how our loved ones, friends, neighbours and ourselves battle mental health issues every single day.
‘‘Walking side by side as a team of women supporting each other through the journey. Individually we can do a little, but together we can do a lot.’’
Local businesses have been giving generously, with Doggos Doggy Day Care having already donated an impressive £250 and £62.50 gift aid, in addition to generously sponsoring the team T-shirts for the walk.
Other businesses who have gotten behind the great cause include Barry’s Vets, Belfast Bow Company, Gordon’s Chemists as well as individual friends and supporters of the charity, including lovely board member, friend and supporter Rosemary Beasley who recently presented Via Wings with a cheque from her birthday fundraiser.
Rosie raised funds in lieu of birthday gifts and in memory of her twin brother BJ Hogg for Via Wings & Lyric Theatre Belfast.
Last year, a new report by mental health charity Samaritans revealed that suicide rates for men and women are higher in Northern Ireland than other UK nations and the Republic of Ireland.
Men and women are almost twice as likely to commit suicide here compared to those in England, with the highest rate among men aged 25 to 29 and women aged 40 to 49.
Tragically, the effects of Covid-19 and the resulting lockdown and restrictions are feared to have led to an increase in mental health problems, particularly in younger people and even children.
Via Wings supports people in the local community in a practical, non-judgemental way.
Businesses and locals are urged to get on board and support the Via Wings Miles4Minds challenge.
Readers can do this by donating to the Just Giving page at: justgiving.com/campaign/miles4minds.
To find out more about taking part in the challenge, get in touch with the team at Via Wings. Information can be found at: viawings.co.uk.