EXCERPT: “The feedback we got back from the public was great because we had to change a lot of things this year.”

The Kerry Mental Health & Wellbeing Fest, held annually, was even more important this year in the midst of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Held in October, most of the 59 events were  online (40) or outdoors (8) with many completely booked out – from laughter yoga, forest walks and a photography competition to Radio Kerry programmes on family mindfulness.
The South Kerry Development Partnership (SKDP) this year, as always, was a key stakeholder and their rural men’s outreach officer, D.J. Moran, emphasised the special importance of the Kerry Mental Health and Wellbeing Fest in 2020.
“The feedback we got back from the public was great because we had to change a lot of things this year. We were hoping to have everything face-to-face with people out in public in parks, beaches and in every town in South Kerry, but obviously that all changed with Covid-19. So it was a bit of a task to start doing things online. Our fear was a lot of the elderly people would be lost with it because as you can imagine… asking them to go on a Zoom call, they would look at you as if you had two heads. But, in fairness, everyone pulled together. We got to do some outdoor things, even with the restrictions, and they worked well.”
D.J. continued, “Day Care Centres, community events, they’re all gone for now. So there is a large percentage of people that we don’t know how they are getting on and this was one way of reaching out to people.”
Of concern, only 14% of people who took part in Wellbeing Fest activities were men – according to data from the organisers.
D.J. pointed out that isolation is not only a rural problem but an urban one as well. In response, civil society and community groups are endeavouring to provide essential supports in these challenging times.

• Alex Bermingham won First Place (Special Education) with this entry in Mental Health Ireland’s art/photography competition.

The Kerry Mental Health Association is, said D.J., the main centrepoint for information in relation to issues with mental health within the county.
Jigsaw Kerry is an organisation aimed at the youth and it also plays a critical role. As DJ said, “It might be harder to see a mental health problem with a younger person.”
Speaking about Kerry Volunteer Centre, he agreed that volunteering is a fantastic way to become involved within your local community and in turn boost one’s confidence and self-esteem.
D.J. is one of the many community workers making themselves available around the clock. He said, “I am always available by phone so anytime night or day people can ring me.”

The ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’ were central to the ‘Kerry Mental Health and Wellbeing Fest’.
Time and again, scientific studies have shown that if we regularly practice the following, our mental health and wellbeing improve.
We can all make active and deliberate choices about changing the state in which we find ourselves. We just need to begin.


Lend an ear; Lend a hand; Talk instead of messaging; Share experience.


Move your body; Move your mood.


Be curious and be aware; How are you feeling? How are others feeling? What can you change?


Surprise yourself with what you can do!


Your time; Your effort; Your time; Your kindness.

• Best friends relax on the slipway at White Strand, Co. Clare, in August. Kerry is in the far distance! Photo by A. Meagher.