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'Step Out Ireland' Facilitates Groups for People With Social Anxiety

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It is a strange experience in Ireland currently to see mental health awareness and stories being so common within every communication channel, from Facebook to coffee mornings for suicide awareness, etc. For far too long, our society viewed discussion around mental health as being a sign of weakness, that you were incomplete somehow as a human being. The question “how are you?” was always responded with the same old response “I’m grand,” “Not too bad,” and everything in between. Nowadays it is not unusual to hear someone say, “You know I could be better. I’m going through some tough times currently.” Far more of this realistic uncut discussion should only be welcomed.

For many people with social anxiety disorder, however, there is still a distinct feeling that our condition is a widely ignored and under reported issue in Ireland. This is, after all, a condition that affects at least 1 in 8 people in our country. It can manifest itself into depression and result in the onset of substance abuse issues as someone with the condition attempts to cope with social interactions.

I am not highlighting the struggles associated with social anxiety to gain sympathy but rather to highlight how it fundamentally affects every aspect of someone’s life. Whether you know it or not you know someone with social anxiety disorder. It may be a family member, friend or colleague. If you suspect someone you are in contact with has the condition, take a little more time to interact with them. Their being quiet or exhibiting negative body language does not mean they do not want to interact with others. Sometimes the most basic of interactions with someone can make all the difference to someone with the condition and provide an increase in confidence that is missing in their life.

At Step Out Ireland, we aim to reduce the detrimental effects of social anxiety disorder through the arrangement of social interaction groups and events where members can meet others with the condition, increase social confidence and remove themselves from the isolation of social anxiety disorder. The groups we arrange are facilitated by volunteers who ensure you will be welcomed into a friendly atmosphere, be made to feel part of a group and make you realize you have a place of belonging for as long as you need it.

We act as a pillar of support for people with the condition, and we achieve this in unison with other treatments for the condition such as counseling and medication.

Step by step, we are addressing social anxiety in Ireland. It is a very long journey ahead, but we will get there. I for one am looking forward to an Ireland where people with the condition are no longer on their own. It’s time for us as a nation to “Step Out” of the shadow of social anxiety.

For a condition that is so prevalent in Irish society it is rarely spoken about or acknowledged with dedicated services. Step Out Ireland’s vision is to change this for people with social anxiety disorder in Ireland. Due to the symptoms people with the condition experience it is a very difficult condition to personally admit to having. Here at Step Out Ireland we are a voice for the 1 in 8 people in Ireland battling with the condition every single day.

I realized when I said out loud that I have social anxiety disorder, the ground didn’t open up, I wasn’t chastised by anyone. My life actually only felt easier. I will always have social anxiety disorder but am continuously learning how to effectively manage it to the point where it does not stop me living my life. I am a “1 in 8,” but it will not define me but rather allow others to join us on their journey.


Francis Cleary is the Founder of Step Out Ireland. Step Out Ireland have groups in Dublin, Galway, Limerick & Cork and are currently identifying new locations to establish more groups. If you would like to attend an existing group or volunteer with the organization, please check out the website for more information.

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Thinkstock photo by g-stockstudio

Originally published: December 10, 2016
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