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Jim Breen fears second wave will damage mental health

Jim Breen fears second wave will damage mental health

Jim Breen fears second wave will damage mental health

Businessman Jim Breen, who tragically lost his aunt to Covid-19, believes the second wave will have a more significant impact on mental health than the first.

As the country experiences a surge in cases, the charity founder said the pandemic has created the need for a sharper focus on mental health and is encouraging companies to look after their employees' well-being.

For him, one of the major issues arising is the effect on people who are unable to grieve the loss of loved ones properly.

"For my own dad and family not to be able to go my aunt's funeral, that was extremely hard," he said.

"These kinds of experiences are creating issues and challenges for people and we're seeing a lot of that in workplaces."

Mr Breen went public with his own struggle with depression in 2012 when he appeared the RTÉ show The Secret Millionaire.

He went on to set up Cycle Against Suicide in 2013 and is now working on a new initiative which helps tackle mental health in the workplace.

I Am Here, which originated in Australia, is about changing beliefs and behaviours around mental health in organisations.

It aims to teach staff about how to address previously taboo subjects, such as suicide.

"It's about showing people there is help out there and making them aware of the support available," Jim said.

"The first wave of Covid-19 was the physical wave as it was all about social distancing, staying at home and not being able to travel.

"But the second and third waves will be about mental health and well-being because of the things that are happening due to Covid."

Some large Irish companies, such as Sisk Construction and Fáilte Ireland, have introduced the I Am Here programme into their workplaces.

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"Since Covid, there's been a lot of increased anxiety and we're working with workplaces and communities to give them the tools they need to have conversations about how their staff are doing, and also teaching them how to have the tougher conversations," Jim said.

"At I Am Here, we are helping prevent suicide at individual, community and national levels.

"We're living in a new world and things probably aren't going to go back to how they used to be. People aren't used to working remotely or being away from colleagues, and that is creating issues as there's an element of loneliness.

"The main message is it's OK not to feel OK, and it's absolutely OK to ask for help."