HP/Jigsaw Galway – La Dolce Vita Lifestyle Event

A few weeks ago, while out doing what scares the crap out of me but I’m determined to get better at, i.e. networking – I met Kim Tighe from HP who told me about a charity lifestyle event they were organising to raise funds and awareness for their chosen charity of 2015 – Jigsaw Galway. Jigsaw is a free and confidential support service for young people in Galway aged 15-25 who can either drop in or make an appointment and simply have a chat and ask for help and advise with any problems or issues in relation to their mental health. Falling into that age bracket myself, as well as knowing people who have used the service and speak openly about the positive effect it had on them, made me more than delighted to get involved, even if it is just a small way. However, if anyone reading this isn’t feeling themselves or feels like they just need someone to talk to and decides to head into Jigsaw after reading this then it was worth it!
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I called into Jigsaw last week to check out the building and find out a bit more about what they do. Firstly, the location on Fairgreen Road is spot on. It’s central enough so that it’s easily accessible but also slightly outside the city centre so that feels a bit more private. It’s also directly beside the bus and train stations which is extremely handy for anyone who is travelling from outside the city. The building itself is so cool. From the outside it’s like a swanky London glass office building but when you go inside it’s like stepping into a hip hostel reception – it’s bright, airy, very colourful and even though the windows are glass they are frosted so although you can see out, nobody can see in. Immediately when you enter you are greeted with a welcoming and smiling face and offered tea or coffee while you wait. It really isn’t what you would expect for a mental health support service. I mean this in the fact that it feels like the furthest thing from a hospital or doctors office and there’s nothing intimidating about the place- mainly because the opinions of a youth advisory panel have been taken into consideration while planning everything from the paint on the walls to the furniture in the consultation rooms.

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I met with Justin McDermott, the Fundraising Manager, who showed my one of the consultation rooms, which once again wasn’t what I was expecting and just felt like I was sitting in somebodys sitting room. There were comfy armchairs, rugs and lamps – basically it was just warm and cosy! Justin went through some of the statistics and facts about Jigsaw and mental health in Galway. He told me that 1 in 3 young people experience mental health difficulties which range from anxiety, tension, worry and stress to family conflict, unexplained anger and depression to name just a few. He said that they have helped over 4,000 young people in Galway since they set up in 2008 and over the last three years have seen a 70% increase in the amount of people using their services. This is partly due to the increase in awareness and becuase talking about mental health and seeking help has become just as normal as going to the GP for a check up. More and more people are starting to feel comfortable saying that they are going to Jigsaw and other services and Justin said that the majority of people who come in come do so because they have heard of the service by word of mouth.

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They operate a drop in service Monday to Thursday from 12pm-6pm. They also operate on an appointment only basis on Friday from 9.30-1pm and 2-5pm and Saturday from 10.30-3pm. For anyone who can’t make it into Galway City, Jigsaw can arrange to meet you somewhere you feel comfortable and if money is an issue then they can also cover your travel costs. For anyone who wants to go but isn’t sure what to expect then this is a rough guideline:

  1. Initial Assessment.
  2. Identify what it is that’s troubling you.
  3. Identify solutions.
  4. Learn skills to enable you to cope and deal with difficulties.

At the start you identify what it is that you want to achieve as and end point. For some people it might only take one or two sessions, for others it can take 6-8 sessions or more but Jigsaw has an 80-90% achievement rate. Jigsaw can also refer people on to other services for more specialist services.

The reason Jigsaw is so valuable is because 75% of adults with mental health difficulties first have symptoms before the age of 25. If people can be taught skills to help them deal with their difficulties when they are young then it can really help. It costs over €1 million to run Jigsaw for a year and even though they are part funded by the HSE, Headstrong and Mental Health Ireland they still need to raise funds themselves. This year they were supported by HP who, among other events, organised a Lifestyle Event – “La Dolce Vita” (The Good Life) which took place in the G Hotel on Friday night.

Far from just being an event where you pay for a ticket, have a few drinks and leave with a goodie bag this event really focused on the issue at the heart of mental health which is communication. On the back of everybodys ticket was a puzzle and to complete the puzzle you had to go around to a number of stalls, interact with people and collect stickers. Once you had completed it you could enter for a prize. The stalls were made up of local companies with the idea being that each represented a different area of your life that you need to look after in order fufil your mental health needs. These areas range from community activities, relationships and sexuality, body issues, family and home, activities, drugs and alcohol, education and employment.

Some of the local companies taking part were Fat Tony’s Barbers who were on hand to cater to male grooming needs while Zenith Galway hair salon took care of the women. Local health shop Evergreen were there full of knowledge and advise about food, supplements and lots of local produce and Green Earth Organics were showcasing a stand full of amazing organic produce. Solaris Botanicals, fresh from Dublin after winning an award were also there with lots of samples of their herbal teas and were even pairing up taster samples depending on what you were drinking.

To cater to our creative sides The Gaiety Antique and Furniture store were there. Apart from being just a shop they also run courses in furniture restoration (and have a free one coming up on the 26th of September). The lovely ladies from Amber had the most eye catching and sweetest smelling stand where they were showcasing their range of crystals, candles, incense, sage and eveything to do with Holistic Health.

Catering to physical fitness were French Vanoli who run lots of different classes from Pilates to crossfit to strength and core, Rusheen Bay Windsurfing who were tempting us out onto the water and Great Outdoors were able to advise us of any equipment and gear we may need.

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For me, the highlight of the evening was listening to the speakers. Ruth Kilcawley, one of Irelands leading sports dieticians (who has worked with the likes of Atheltics Ireland, Connaught Rugby and Galway Senior Hurling) and her talk about the top 5 foods for mood as well as simple tips for implementing healthy changes in your diet was hugely informative.

Next up was John McGuire of Fat Tony’s Barbers who spoke about the importance of having a place like Fat Tony’s in the community where men could come in and feel comfortable to just sit, chat and talk and be made feel welcome and appreciated. He spoke about the simple yet extremely effective way that taking pride in your appearance can positively impact your mood and how simply asking Clients how they’re getting on and telling them they’re looking good can make an impact.

After this we had an interactive session with Jim Hickey, Performance Coach and Business Mentor who spoke of some of the things we can do to improve our mental health, which include making plans, being optimistic, smiling more, being inspired by others, making time to get things done, constantly working on improving ourselves, visualizing what we want to achieve and finally to enjoy the process!


Once suitably motivated it was raffle time and even though I tried hard to visualize myself winning the €3,000 diamond ring that was sponsored by AW Diamonds, sadly it wasn’t to be. The ring itself was a blue sapphire surrounded by diamonds, custom designed especially for the event by Aine Burke of AW Diamonds. For everyone else who didn’t win there was an epic raffle with about 50 prizes kindly sponsored by the companies mentioned above.


To finish off a fantastic night, everyone was treated to amazing goodie bags, once again sponsored very generously by the above local companies as well as Aunty Nellies Traditional Sweet Shop and Mungo Murphy’s, a local company who use seaweed harvested from the Atlanctic coast to make food products as well as beauty products including these seaweed baths and facemasks that were in the goodie bags. I went through the contents on my snapchat this morning (superfitfoodie) but keep an eye out on my Instagram (@the_superfit_foodie), Twitter (@aisling_harris) and Facebook over the next few weeks when I’ll be using the products!

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Overall it was a fantstic event! The goal of raising awareness and funds for such a valuable and important local chairty was certainly achieved and “normalizing” the issue of mental health and seeking help among young people was evident from some of the testimonials and feedback. The lasting message of the night was “it’s ok not to be ok” and it’s certainly ok to seek help from organisations such as Jigsaw or just to take time out and look after all areas of your mental health by utilising some of the products and services of some of the local companies that were exhibiting at the event.