Beat the Blues and Turn2me

Beat the Blues and Turn2me1

With more lives still being lost to suicide than are lost on our roads, not enough focus or attention is given to positive and active solutions to mental health.

Depression affects one in ten people in Ireland at any one time. But change is happening. Aware and Tesco join forces for the ‘Beat the Blues’ secondary schools programme which aims to improve the mental life of our younger people at no cost. Turn2me is an online mental health community providing support to people over 18 in safe and anonymous forums and is free of charge.

In January Aware and Tesco announced their plans for ‘Beat the Blues’ for 2013, as they unite to battle indifference to mental health issues. ‘Beat the Blues’ is Aware’s positive mental health programme for senior cycle students in secondary schools throughout Ireland. This proactive curriculum is offered completely free of charge to every secondary school in the country.

So far, over a third of all secondary schools have taken Aware up on the offer for their pupils. In total that means 18,559 young people, from 252 schools, have received the vital advice and coping tools on how to manage their anxiety and stress from Aware.

Tesco’s support to Aware makes it possible for the ‘Beat the Blues’ course to be offered free of charge. It is thanks to Tesco’s staff and their superb fundraising efforts nationwide that the finances were raised to sponsor ‘Beat the Blues’. Tesco Charity announced that they are “thrilled to have collected over €700,000 to date.

Dr Claire Hayes is the Clinical Director for ‘Beat the Blues’ and she explains that “educating young people at this age about mental health is so vital, and we know that the more coping tools a person has, the better their outcome in times of stress”. An Aware Education Officer explains the ‘Beat the Blues’ programme to adolescents (no more than 30 at a time). It always takes place under the guidance of a teacher, whom the students are familiar with. It takes place over two class periods, each 40 minutes long. But, of course, if it suits the teenagers and the school, Aware can adjust the timing of the initiative.

Teenagers who attended ‘Beat the Blues’ say they now know “it’s ok to talk”. They learn that “you won’t be judged, if you do talk”. Because depression and suicide can be regarded as taboo subjects the fact that students now consider “it is ok to talk” is such an ultimately positive step forward. Pupils reveal that, apart from valued assistance from their school Guidance Counsellor, they had not learnt how to deal with their own mental health. Unfortunately government cuts to the number of Guidance Counsellors means teens may lose that help when they think they may be in trouble.

Thoughts can be automatic and can be helpful or unhelpful. They can be a trigger causing us to feel or to act in a certain way. Aware’s ‘Coping Triangle’ is one of the useful tools taught to teenage children, to sustain them when dealing with worry and anxiety, in bite-sized chunks. It can turn “unhelpful” thoughts into “helpful” feelings.

Feelings are messengers: they are neither good nor bad. It is what we do with them that’s important. In addition to ‘Beat the Blues’, Aware offers support services for individuals and families impacted by depression, including support groups, which are run each week nationwide and online; a local Helpline and an email support service.


Turn2me is an online mental health community providing support to adults over 18. It is free and you can remain anonymous. You just need to create a user name for yourself and give an email address. As the introductory video explains, you do not have to use your usual email address; you can create a new one for the site to ensure anonymity. Because you are typing out what you are feeling, users find they have more time to reflect and sort out their feelings and thoughts. Google works with Turn2me to design Adwords campaigns to capture keywords or phrases to recognise someone who could benefit from assistance. Edward Dunne, from NUA Healthcare, is also a valued sponsor who actively advises Turn2me in supporting adults who are seeking comfort.

With Google’s help Turn2me are able to capture when someone is looking for a means of self-harming, such as pro-anorexia (or pro-ana) sites. If you have never attended a mental health professional or if you feel embarrassed about seeing a counsellor or psychotherapist, Turn2me can be a valuable first step for you in experiencing how outside advice can assist you, when you are dealing with a personal issue.

For others the online counselling is a viable stand-alone alternative to face-to-face support and they may never seek help from mental health professionals in person. Certain users of Turn2me, who speak to the mental health professionals online, also attend face-to-face sessions with their own psychotherapist. The options are there for you to avail of in a manner that suits you.

Turn2me offers assistance in five discrete online modes: support forums, support groups, online 1-to-1 counselling, the thought catcher tool and a listing of other mental health services providers. At the moment there is usually one thousand to two and half thousand using Turn2me daily.

The support forums are like chat rooms, which are open from 12 noon each day till 12 midnight GMT. During this time trained volunteers support the forum. Other forum users can chat to someone who is looking for help or advice on a particular situation, like feeling lonely in college even though others surround you. Users who contribute to the forum and offer support and advice to someone who is asking for help, find it helps them feel better because they are improving someone else’s situation. By feeling useful and needed by others, we feel better about ourselves.

Mental health professionals facilitate the online support groups. You can select a support group that is discussing your particular worry, be it depression, anxiety, feelings or thoughts about suicide or other mental health issues. Many users do not add to the discussions in the support forums or groups. They are happy to just read what is being said, but they find having access to them gives them a safety net, knowing the help is there and that other people are not feeling great all the time too.

The Thought Catcher is your own anonymous tool to build up a pattern of your moods over any period of time. Each day or whenever suits you, you enter your thought that day and also a mood, ranging from ‘terrible, bad, ok, good, great’. After a while you will have a graph showing a pattern to your moods and what thoughts you were having and how this relates to the mood you were feeling. This helps you understand how particular situations can greatly influence your moods and can help you better understand how to deal with worrisome situations differently. It helps you differentiate between thoughts and how you behave when you are having particular thoughts. The huge advantage to the Thought Catcher is that by becoming more and more aware of how you react to situations, this is when you can take steps to preventing strong negative reactions to them.

If the site’s moderators recognise that a user is in need of 1-to-1 counselling from what they are saying in the Support Forums, in Thought Catcher or the support groups, a person can be offered 1-to-1 counselling. If you need counselling you will be offered 8 sessions. Turn2me also offers subsidised 1-to-1 counselling, where a fee of €30 for a 50-minute session with a professional is charged. Part of this payment goes to offering free sessions to others, who are in financial difficulty. There may be a short waiting time for the free sessions of approximately a month, but this is shorter than the waiting time would be in our health system.

Turn2me is attempting to raise funds to add a new service called Turn2me Youth, for children, under the age of 18 years, to address the real problem of online bullying. This would be an online tool for children to access, like the current site for adults, but with mental health professionals who are educated in dealing with younger individuals. If you wish to take part in any of the fundraising events for Turn2me Youth, contact or Kim at Turn2me would also be delighted if you were interested in holding your own event for them.

Bare Your Soul (14th February, Valentine’s Day at 7pm)
Dare to bare the elements on a 500-meter heart-shaped running track held on Sandymount Strand. Whatever you wear (or don’t wear), it’s all for a great cause. There will be complimentary blankets and hot drinks for all participants who cross the finishing line. If you are taking part, registration takes place at 6pm.

Donate a Euro
You can donate by adding €1 donation to every bill at Fade Street Social by Dylan McGrath. This donation will soon be expanded to Brassiere Sixty6 and Rustic Stone.

Ride2Tedfest (Thursday, 21st – Saturday, 23rd February)
Get your bike and tent ready and cycle from Athlone to Inish Mór for two nights of Tedfest. The fundraising target of €490 includes all costs and donations to Turn2me.

To contact Aware:
Online Support Groups:
LoCall: 1890 303 302 (Everyday, 10am – 10pm)

To book ‘Beat the Blues’ for your school:
Tel: 01 661 7211

Facebook: – An anonymous, supportive community saving lives
Twitter: @Turn2me

by Tracy O’Brien