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Francis Cleary

Step Out Ireland

Awardee 2016

Step Out Ireland
Sam Synnott and Judith Ashton
Shane McKenna and Killian Redmond

Step Out Ireland works with people who experience Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), seeking to support them by facilitating social interaction with other members experiencing SAD.

The Challenge

We all know the feeling of being in an uncomfortable or new environment – we may feel shy, nervous, or unsure of ourselves. Imagine this became so acute that just being in the company of other people or the thought of a future interaction could induce anxiety, panic attacks, breathing difficulties, or nausea. This is the reality for 1 in 8 people in Ireland today who are experiencing Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). SAD is an irrational fear of social situations and interactions, which can lead to the onset of other issues if not confronted, such as depression, alcoholism or drug abuse, and the inability to obtain or maintain employment.

The Idea

Francis was diagnosed with SAD at the age of 27 having lived with the condition his entire life. He soon realised that the treatment options available – medication and counselling - did not provide him the opportunity to combat the debilitating effects of social isolation. Fearing that all the progress he had made with his social anxiety would be lost unless he had a way to meaningfully interact with other people, he set up Step Out Ireland. Step Out Ireland provides a welcoming and safe environment for people to step out of their anxiety and make new connections, thereby increasing confidence and a sense of belonging. They organise support groups which are small and informal with group facilitators to help people to feel at ease.

The Impact

In June 2015 Step Out Ireland began with just one Dublin group and five members. Today, Step Out Ireland have grown to four groups in Dublin, Galway, Limerick and Cork and now have over 400 members. They are working to raise awareness of SAD and its impact on people’s everyday lives. With Step Out Ireland, you have somewhere to go where you are understood, listened to, and valued. They are committed to their goal of becoming one of the main pillars of support for people with SAD in Ireland, ensuring that no one with this condition feels alone.

Francis Cleary, Award Winner 2017 Award, 2016


Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, Lower Ground Floor, 11/12 Warrington Place, Dublin 2
Phone: +353 1 685 3191, Email: info@socialentrepreneurs.ie

Company No: 433846, Registered Charity No: CHY 17524, © SEI 2016

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