Last night was an emotional night for me. I was in the Glens Centre in Manorhamilton speaking to a full house on the topic of Minding Ourselves – Managing Stress. As I was making the journey from Sligo it dawned on me that I was there many years before. I actually delivered the first ever Moodwatchers course there. At the time I was a bit apprehensive about trying my new idea in my home county so Leitrim became the guinea pig!! Over six consecutive Mondays I delivered psychology classes on the topics of health, happiness and resilience to the good people of Manorhamilton. I had no idea what journey I had just embarked on. Moodwatchers consequenlty was to be delivered in every county in Ireland in some shape or form. It was to bring me into over 500 schools across the island. I was to embark on a serious driving mission for many years as my work brought me to every corner of Ireland and abroad to health professionals, government departments on both sides of the border and the corporate world. I became a very busy bee!
Last night one of the people who attended that first Moodwatchers course was at my talk. Anne and I chatted. We figured out that it was twenty years ago. At that time I took a significant professional risk. I became self-employed and moved away from fire-brigade psychology into fire-proofing psychology and left my secure and pensionable job behind me. I wanted to sow the sides of mental wellness within people. I wanted to encourage people to tap into their own potential more – to learn how to cope with challenges rather than surrendering to them.
Of all the achievements in my career to date my proudest moment was selling out the Hawks Well Theatre in Sligo. This was not because of any personal egotistic reason but more to do with the fact that psychology was being demystified and mental health vulnerability was being de-stigmatised as people laughed and cried while learning key strategies towards achieving a better quality of life. The Iontas Theatre in my native county also sold out. Just before the pandemic I had planned a nationwide tour and sold-out the Black Box theatre in Belfast as a first event of a planned series of events that were sadly cancelled. I hope to kick-start this tour in the Spring.
It is so satisfying to bring psychology out of its traditional formal setting into an informal setting, to bring it from the clinic into the community and to make evidence-based psychology available to everyone – not just people with symptoms. It was lovely to find myself back where it all started 20 years ago. I was brave then when I look back on it – braver than I knew at the time. We were advised as youngsters to look before we leap – but I leapt before I looked and it all worked out in the end. Sometimes we have to go with our instincts – risk it for a biscuit.
The same course is now available online starting in a few weeks. If you miss one of the classes you will receive a recording of it so you’ve no excuses. For more information about Moodwatchers, please click on the link below