Local woman walks 100 miles for Aware and gets community talking about mental health.
A hairdresser and mum of three has been trekking tirelessly around Crossgar to fundraise for a local charity, whilst starting important conversations about mental health within her community.
Bernie Sweeney from Darragh Cross completed a 100 mile sponsored walk during February in aid of AWARE – the depression charity for Northern Ireland. She not only raised over £4,000 but by sharing daily updates on her social media, she also connected with many people along the way who had been affected by poor mental health.
Explaining her motivations for undertaking the challenge, Bernie said: “When new lockdown restrictions were announced, I was keen to remain active in order to keep my mind focused. I decided to combine my love of walking with my passion for helping others.
“I chose the charity AWARE because they seem to understand how to reach out to all age groups. Within my own family, I could see how this past year had been tough on their friendships and education.”
Bernie added: “When I started my journey, it became clear to me just how AWARE had helped so many people. Folk were messaging me to say themselves, or their family members or their schools, had used AWARE NI to help deal with all kinds of mental health problems.
“I thoroughly enjoyed my month of walking. Not only did I raise money, which I am so grateful to all my sponsors for, I also felt I helped to raise awareness of mental health issues by talking about what I was doing, and this really helped me with my own mental health in a time where my work life had come to a standstill with the lockdown.”
Community and Events Fundraising Officer at AWARE, Lesley Wright said: “We are incredibly proud of what Bernie has achieved through her fundraising challenge. Not only by raising vital funds to help AWARE continue providing support to those living with mental illness in Northern Ireland but by encouraging conversation surrounding the topic of mental health.
“This mirrors AWARE’s mission to break down the stigma attached to mental illness and create a society where mental health is discussed openly without judgement. Thank you so much, Bernie, and to all of those who donated!”
AWARE offers mental health support to people of all generations in Northern Ireland. The charity’s free-to-attend support groups welcome people living with depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder.
The groups provide a safe space to meet with others on a similar journey who can understand, encourage and suggest helpful ways of coping.
AWARE also delivers mental health awareness courses to schools, workplaces, community groups, and hospitals to equip people with the tools they need to best look after their minds.
For full details of AWARE programmes and support, please go to: