Friends receive financial backing for unique initiative

Friends receive financial backing for unique initiative

By Maurice Garvey 

TWO friends from Tallaght with experience in tackling personal mental health issues, have received financial backing for a unique initiative, which provides free creative therapies to homeless people.

David Keegan and JP Swaine, from Millbrook Lawns, started the charity First Fortnight in 2009, and host a national mental health festival every January.

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David Keegan pictured at the 2018 Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Awards

First Fortnight were one of eight winners announced at the recent 2018 Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Awards.

As well as an immediate €10,000 in unrestricted funding, awardees will receive a place on an accelerator programme worth €15,000, with access to pro-bono supporters, coaches, mentors and potentially further development funds.

Keegan said the social enterprise began as a voluntary venture and started going fulltime in 2014 – employing four people today.

“Our work exclusively is referral based with clients who are homeless or at risk of homelessness,” said Keegan.

He said the model is based on arts and culture to “affect a sea change” and “indirectly challenge” the stigma associated with mental health and homelessness.

Located at a premises in North Earl Street, the centre operates in partnership with Haven House, Crosscare, and is supported by the Dublin Region Homeless Executive.

In 2013, they became a service provider delivering free creative therapies to vulnerable communities across Dublin, and identify as Ireland’s only creative art therapy service working with homeless people.

Speaking at the SEI awards in the Mansion House, Keegan revealed that he self-harmed as a young teen, whilst JP lost an older brother to suicide.

The pair decided in 2009, to organise a mental health event, to counteract what they felt, was a lack of public awareness on mental health issues.

“I could never quite understand why you couldn’t change channel for seeing a road safety add but I never saw one for mental health,” said David.

“When we sat down the intention was to design a model to start a national mental health conversation. We’d a shared interest. Art and culture reflects us societally, artists have always championed issues of great social importance and great art can effect great change.”