Breaking the cycle of suicide in Ireland

Cycle Against Suicide was founded in 2012 by Irish entrepreneur, Jim Breen, who wanted to tackle the stigma that surrounds mental health, and break the cycle of suicide in Ireland, where over 800 people take their own lives every year. To achieve this, Cycle Against Suicide organizes an annual cycle with the aim of raising awareness of the considerable help and support that is available for anyone battling depression, self-harm, at risk of suicide or bereaved by suicide. The organization and its ever-growing community is determined to let people in every corner of the island of Ireland know that “it’s OK not to feel OK and it’s absolutely OK to ask for help.”

Cycle Against Suicide aims to get people to talk about mental health issues, and not suffer in silence

The first cycle tour in 2012 attracted 2,500 participants. The event in 2015 is expected to have over 10,000 participants

Each year the route changes so that the message is delivered to all corners of the island of Ireland

The popularity of the annual cycle tour has grown exponentially since 2012, and this year more than 10,000 people are expected to take part. The 1,400km tour will start in Belfast on 27th April and will finish in Dublin 14 days later, on 10th May. Each day, the Cycle Against Suicide community will cover an average of 100km and will stop at schools and local community groups along the way, delivering inspirational speeches to thousands of young people about the dangers of mental health, the signs to look out for and the help available to them. Presentations, videos, celebrity speakers, and exhibitions from local mental health services ensure the important message is delivered in an accessible way.

Founder, Jim Breen, giving a speech to pupils at an Irish school about the dangers of mental health, and how it's something we should all talk about

Founder, Jim Breen, giving a speech to pupils at an Irish school about the dangers of mental health, and how it’s something we should all talk about

Anyone can take part in the cycle ride, regardless of their fitness level, and participants can choose to do the whole thing or just certain legs of the route. For those that don’t want to take part in the cycling but want to lend their support to the project, they can offer their services as a Homestay. This means that they provide cyclists with a warm meal, a chance to freshen up and a bed for the night during the main event.

For the first time this year, the organisation is also hosting a running event alongside the main cycle with the aim of accessing new communities previously untouched, including businesses, voluntary groups and prisons. The 28 day Run for Cycle Against Suicide will cover the same 1,400km route as the cycle ride, but the other way round, with an average running distance of 50km per day.

Anyone can take part in the event, and they can chose to do the whole thing or just parts of the route

Anyone can take part in the event, and they can chose to do the whole thing or just part of the route. Photo credit: Kim Munday

spin off xxx

Spin-offs take place every month in different Irish counties, to ensure that the Cycle Against Suicide message is spread throughout the year, not just during the main event. Photo credit: Andy Byrne

In addition to the annual tour, the cycling-led initiative has started to help run monthly spin-off rides, to encourage communities to talk about mental health throughout the year and not just during the main event. The spin-off rides are locally organised, owned by the community and championed by Cycle Against Suicide ‘local leaders.’ “A SpinOff has all the colour, energy and fun of the annual Cycle but packed into a single day. Entertainment, refreshments and of course a mental well-being event all take place before and after the cycle.”

Speeches are often delivered by celebrities who talk openly about their own personal journeys with depression and other mental health issues

Speeches are often delivered by celebrities who talk openly about their own personal journeys with depression and other mental health issues. From left: Jim Breen, Irish model Roz Purcell and TV pundit Brent Pope

he project is all about lending a hand, or shoulder, to people in the community

Cycle Against Suicide encourages people to stand ‘shoulder to shoulder’ and talk about mental health problems, in order to tackle them together

All images copyright Cycle Against Suicide, unless otherwise stated