Men’s mental health is a really good thing to encourage people to talk about

Men’s mental health is a really good thing to encourage people to talk about

27 March 2024

A DOWNPATRICK man and his trusty companion have completed their walk across the length of Ireland to raise awareness about men’s mental health.

Jason Dagens (31) and his dog Luna embarked on their mammoth journey on February 19 from Malin Head, the most northerly point of the island, before finishing their trek at Mizen Head, the most southerly point, 30 days later.

“I am leaving the island soon and going to Spain to live with my partner, who is having a baby, so I thought I would go on a wee pilgrimage and do it for a good cause,” said Jason.

“I thought because of some of the things that went on this year, men’s mental health is a really good thing to encourage people to know about and to talk about.

“It fits exactly in with what I’m doing because I was asking people for help the whole way down the road and in doing so I was thinking it would help break the stigma of men asking for help.”

Depending on the kindness of strangers, the duo’s trip was documented by Jason on his social media channels, where those who were watching and supporting the pair could offer food, supplies or even a night’s rest as they walked through their respective county.

Jason and Luna passed a total of 14 counties and four provinces, meeting an array of people willing to extend their help along the way. 

“The people in Ireland just fit into that stereotype of the land of one hundred thousand welcomes, they just welcomed me with open arms and wanted to help me because people are just inherently good,” said Jason.

“We tend to get into this mistrust mind frame that people don’t want to help, but they do, they just need the opportunity to do so.” 

Due to some of the roads being too dangerous to travel along, Jason had to extend the initial route to navigate safely, which, in turn, made the distance longer. In the end, the distance totalled over 555 kilometres.

However, completing this journey seemed like a distant dream when disaster struck on the very first day of the walk.

“I ended up in tears in a ditch in Donegal with a bag on my back and big boots on which I shouldn’t have worn,” reflected Jason.

“They were a good, expensive pair of boots but they were too heavy for walking the roads. I started cramping up and sat down in the ditch and the cramps just continued to get worse.

“Luna was jumping all over me, wanting me to carry on and all I could think about is how I wouldn’t be able to do this,” he continued.

“But something just got me to keep going and I set camp up that night before the following day, when I met numerous people who encouraged me to keep going because everyone was showing me kindness.”

Battling through the varying changes in weather, as well as sleeping in a tent, abandoned cottages and anywhere they could get their head down for a few hours of sleep, Jason and Luna eventually made it to Cork for the final stretch of their trip.

“I knew when I was getting to the end that my mother and father were going to be there, so that was a lovely thing to think about,” said Jason.

“For the last day I only had ten kilometres to walk, which was an easy day compared to the rest of them as they ranged between 30 to 35 kilometres.”

With the finish line in sight, Jason shared a reflective moment with Luna before making his final steps to complete his journey.

After a month-long trek, Jason says the experience was “life-changing” and urges any men out there who are struggling to reach out.

“It’s okay to ask for help if you need it, there’s no shame in asking for help,” he said.

“Sometimes it may be difficult to ask those closest to you for help, but there’s loads of services out there that can help as well and people want to help.”

He added: “All you need is love.”

To keep up to date with Jason and his adventures, follow his TikTok, at figlad1; Facebook, Fig Lad; or Instagram, @figlad.