‘Coldvember’ is an annual challenge where swimmers take on the cold waters for charity and this year the movement is helping to highlight the struggles surrounding lockdown and the mental challenges that come with the feeling of isolation and missing out. Donations raised will go to Helplink, a local counselling service in Galway city. Niamh Casey caught up with NUI Galway student Laura Cooke to chat about the drive behind the movement.
“Coldvember 2020 is all about raising awareness and funds for mental health, by challenging ourselves to swim in the sea every day this month, which has incredible power to improve mental health in itself! It started in 2018 with a group of lads who were raising money for Movember, then the focus turned to mental health last year, and we have continued on that theme for 2020.” says Laura. Speaking about the community spirit involved, “The student participation this year has been absolutely incredible, made up of multiple groups of students from mostly NUIG, as well as some GMIT, and some other young people, as well as a lot of retirees. The atmosphere down at Blackrock early in the morning is amazing. It’s cold, it’s often raining, and still it’s buzzing with the enthusiasm of so many young people.”
On the subject of mental health, Laura notes “We want to break down the stigma around mental health. A lot of young people have been particularly affected by mental health problems this year, as college has been online, and they are isolated from friends and family. It’s important not to underestimate the impact COVID-19 has had on the mental health of people of all ages, now it’s more important than ever to talk about it and check in on each other. We are committing to jumping in the sea every single day for the month of November in order to raise funds for Helplink. This is a local mental health charity who provide Galway’s only 7 day a week and out of hours counselling, information, and education services for children, young people and adults.”
So where can people get involved or take a dip to support the cause? “Most of the students this year are swimming in Salthill, however we have a good few swimming at beaches around the country too! After their daily swim, people send us in their pictures or tag us in their Instagram stories, so everyone is connected through the Instagram and Facebook pages.”