Date: 26/09/2013

Thousands of cyclists from around the island of Ireland will take to the roads this coming Spring as part of the 2014 Cycle Against Suicide, and new participants are being encouraged to register for what’s sure to be the experience of a lifetime.

The Cycle Against Suicide initiative was founded by Jim Breen, an Irish entrepreneur, as a result of his experience on The Secret Millionaire. While working with a suicide awareness group in Dublin as part of the show, Jim was moved to reveal and confront his own struggles with depression. Jim saw the devastating impact of suicide on Irish life but also witnessed the life-saving impact that such organisations can have on peoples’ lives. In order to confront the stigma attached to seeking help with mental health and to raise awareness of the supports available, he started Cycle Against Suicide. Last year’s inaugural event saw over 2,500 participants getting into the saddle to take part in some or all of a two week cycle around the Republic of Ireland.

This year’s cycle covers the entire island of Ireland and takes place from Monday, April 28 to Sunday, May 11, with the Northern Ireland leg taking place over the 7, 8, 9 and 10 of May. Stops are planned in Londonderry/Derry, Maghera, Belfast, Portadown and Banbridge.

The Europa Hotel in Belfast hosted the launch of the Northern Ireland leg of the cycle on Thursday, September 26. At the Europa, Jim Breen was joined by Irene Sherry of the Ashton Centre, a social development and enterprise trust which seeks to make North Belfast a better place for its residents to live and prosper. Also present was Andrew Steenson of Active Belfast, an initiative that forms part of the Belfast Strategic Partnership, which aims to promote healthy living and increased physical activity.

“Last year’s cycle created wonderful, lifelong memories for everyone who took part and saw two and a half thousand people standing together, shoulder to shoulder, to break the cycle of suicide,” said Jim at the launch.

“The first of the two main aims of Cycle Against Suicide is to spread the message that it’s ok not to feel ok and it’s more than ok to ask for help. The second goal is to promote and raise awareness of the considerable amount of help and support available within communities to people who are battling with mental health issues.”

Irene Sherry, who is also Co-Chair of the Emotional Health and Wellbeing sub group of the Belfast Strategic Partnership said: “The Cycle Against Suicide initiative further contributes to the work being done in the city to promote positive emotional health and wellbeing. In Belfast there has been a concerted effort since 2011 towards addressing the significant health and life inequalities that shape this city through the Belfast Strategic Partnership.

“In March of this year, the BSP launched the results of the ‘Have Your Say Belfast’ survey, which asked citizens for the first time how they felt about their mental health. The results of that are currently being processed into an Emotional Health and Wellbeing Strategy but what we can say definitely at this stage, is that Belfast is in need of a confidence boost.

“If we are to really tackle this effectively, it needs a big picture approach because improving how people feel about themselves is more than about health – it’s about linking in with life-long learning, physical and sporting activities, early years/early interventions, strengthening family and social ties – the whole life stage approach needs to be factored in if we are to strategically make any inroads into making people feel better about themselves.”

Also commenting at the launch, Andrew Steenson said: “Doing activities such as cycling are not only good for your physical health but also for your mental too. It releases chemicals in our brain that make us feel better, it gives a sense of achievement and control and it helps build our social relationships and networks by introducing us to new friends. All of these benefits can be found when we do moderate levels of activity, such as cycling to work, school or to the shops. What’s great about cycling as an activity is that it can be built in to our everyday routine, so we don’t need to worry about finishing work and having to go to the gym.”

Jim Breen added: “When someone takes their own life, they take with them the power for anyone to help them and every last answer to the countless questions they leave behind. Suicide touches every family in both Northern Ireland and The Republic. That was evidenced by the enthusiastic welcome offered to us by communities all along the route. The average number of people lost to suicide on the island of Ireland every year is over 800. Together, we are working to enter a new chapter in the battle against suicide and to break that cycle.”

Details on the route and how to register for this year’s Cycle Against Suicide are available on www.cycleagainstsuicide.com. Cyclists of all abilities are welcomed and people can sign up for all or any stage of the cycle, which is once again expected to attract thousands of participants.