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Wicklow men set to scale Everest in aid of Talk To Tom

On May 16th John O’Byrne (53) and Seamus Whelan (58) will begin their daunting 17,598 ft ascent to Everest base camp.

John O'Byrne (53) and Seamus Whelan (58)

TWO County Wicklow men are set to go to new heights to help raise funds for Mental Health Charity Talk To Tom.

On May 16th John O’Byrne (53) and Seamus Whelan (58) will begin their daunting 17,598 ft ascent to Everest base camp.

The daring-duo will face a gruelling 16-day trek to reach the roof of the world, while battling through some of the harshest conditions and terrain mother nature has to offer.

Why would these two brave souls undertake such an Uphill Battle ? To stand in solidarity with those who face the Uphill Battle that is depression everyday.

By undertaking the climb of a life the men hope to save lives by raising funds for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Charity Talk To Tom.

John said: “It has never been more important to take our mental health seriously.”

“Talk To Tom is a charity that is very close to my heart,” added the Kerry Foods Factory Supervisor. They have trained some 130-team members here in Kerry Foods, Shillelagh in QPR Suicide Prevention Training and our goal is to keep this wonderful charity funded,” he added.

“They help so many local people here in Shillelagh, Arklow, Wicklow and indeed Gorey.

“They are also training people all over Ireland in QPR Training, which I have done myself and I can attest to its life saving potential.

“We decided to take on the most daunting and challenging trek that we could. This was a personal challenge to ourselves and it was also symbolic. It is to symbolise the UpHill Battle people struggling with their mental health face every day,” he added.

Mr Whelan, also a 20-year veteran of Kerry Foods, Shillelagh said the duo picked Talk To Tom as it is one of the best charities in Ireland for Mental Health Services.

“Talk To Tom has helped so many people over the years - and we want to make sure that they are in a position to continue to help people.

“This group is doing so much to help people who are struggling with their mental health - where our Government is failing,” he added.

“We are both looking forward to taking on this challenge, the training is gruelling at the moment, we are doing 60-miles per week but it will be worth it in the long run,” he added

The pair hope to raise €30,000 for the entirely volunteer led organization that receives no state funding.

“It was important for us to do an event like this for Talk To Tom,” added Mr O’Byrne. “We like their volunteer led ethos. The fact that no one takes a huge salary from it is something we admire greatly.”

They aim to hold a number of events in the run up to their trek including raffles, dart tournaments and vintage car runs, the details of which can all be found on their website -

Produce Giant Kerry Foods and Talk To Tom first joined forces to deliver QPR Training to staff in 2018.

QPR which stands for Question, Persuade, and Refer — is a suicide intervention technique which was grandfathered into Ireland by Talk To Tom’s Ray Cullen.

The three simple steps which the course outlines can teach anyone to help save a life from suicide. Just as people trained in CPR help save thousands of lives each year, people trained in QPR learn how to recognise the warning signs of a suicide crisis and how to question, persuade, and refer someone to help.

To date the volunteer run organisation has delivered the training to over 5,000 people in Ireland and the UK and have recently begun delivering the programme to staff in Penneys Stores.

Speaking of the training Kerry Foods Shillelagh,Production Manager, Terry Byrne lauded the programme as a success.

“QPR training at Kerry Foods has been phenomenally successful,” he said.

“The feedback from the staff and all the attendees was brilliant. People who have been with the company for 20 or 30-years have said it was the best training course they have ever done - that it had given them an entirely different perspective.

“For me personally - it made me question what I was doing in my role as a manager on site - and think about if any of my actions were adversely affecting the mental well-being of others and what I could proactively do to help people with their mental health.”

The sites General Manager Sarah Murphy added: “I got the opportunity to take part in QPR training with Ray - and it was on the best training programmes I have ever undertaken.

“It was so different than any other type of course I’ve ever done and the engagement and interaction in the room was just superb.

“It sets you up with a life skill. Prior to it I wouldn't have known how to deal with situations like that but it just equips you with the tools to make someone safe.

We are committed to it here now and I would just like to thank Talk To Tom for letting us be a part of it.”

Kerry Foods General Manager Sarah Murphy

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