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14 Aug 2022

Invaluable County Derry charity celebrates ten years

The mental health charity is marking a decade in operation this year.

Invaluable County Derry charity celebrates ten years

Karen McGuigan (right) at one of many cheque handovers the group has received in their ten-year stint.

The S.T.E.P.S charity based in Draperstown has reached a significant milestone this week, marking ten years since the group was formed.

With the support of local group Workspace, the charity has moved into new premises at the new Community Hub and continues to go from strength to strength.

Speaking to the County Derry Post on behalf of S.T.E.P.S this week, Karen McGuigan looked back at the ongoing success of the charity;

“The first night we met in St. Colm's on May 31st 2012, Anne Marie McStocker just asked us what did the community want. What did we want to see around prevention, intervention and postvention.

“We were able to connect with groups like Families Bereaved Through Suicide , groups like Lifeline and the various health trusts. Mervyn Reid from Lifeline came to talk to us in the beginning we didn't even know that Lifeline existed until that night,” said Karen.

Fast forward ten years and the need for support hasn't diminished at all, in fact it may have increased with the social impacts of Covid19 now revealing themselves in society, the need for talking and finding support has never been greater.

“There is no 'one size fits all' approach,” said Karen. “People ask are things worse since Covid but you know the issues were there, it's just maybe that Covid has brought them to the fore.

"People are willing to talk more now. Thankfully the stigma around mental health issues has been removed and people are willing to talk a lot more.

“But we have a health service that is on it's knees. There are so many improvements that could be made in the processes,” added Karen.

“We need clear pathways to find help, and those pathways need to work. People of all ages are reaching out for help and there is help there.

Another recent cheque handover in Moneymore.

"We have worked with people from 4 years old to 88 years old. There are a huge range of issues and they are evolving.

“Initially there was a stigma in people asking for help. Now people feel they can - ask but the range of issues is massive, things like anxiety, eating disorders, alcohol abuse, there are just so many wide ranging issues,” she added.

While the group is based in Draperstown they are keen to get the word out that they will accept people from all over the region.

“We have seen over 570 people from 48 different towns and villages across the region and we have provided services from Newtownabbey to Limavady and beyond. We wouldn't turn anyone away.”

Having a fully volunteer led charity relies on the good work of many people which is key to this group's success and longevity.

“We have such a fantastic committee. One of the best additions we have made over the year is to have two students from St. Colm's High School on the committee, and having that young voice around the table is just unreal.

“We were trying to plan this ten year event and we wanted something that caters for everyone, we didn't want people to have to spend money or feel that there wasn't something for them.

We have games at the 3G pitch from 11am to 1pm and then we have a wee historical look at the 'Soup Kitchen' and learn a bit of history about the town and area, we have the talent on show at Glasgowbury then you can dander back up to St. Colm's and enjoy afternoon tea from 1pm to 3pm.

“It's all about community, bringing people of all ages out, something relaxing and social. Where people can just connect again, to have a chat and spend some time out of the house, at a nice and relaxed event, where people can come together.

"That is the one thing that people of all ages have told us. People say they have missed sitting around and having a chat more than anything, and so everyone is very welcome to join us.”

Events will take place on Sunday June 12 at the Draperstown 3G pitch from 11am-1pm with cross country and games, followed from 1pm to 3pm at the Soup Kitchen, Glasgowbury and afternoon tea at St. Colm's High School.

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