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Swimmers make big splash for mental health charity

A swimmer endures the January chill during the AWARE New Year Splash in Newcastle Co Down at the weekend

DOZENS of hardy souls braved icy January waters in Co Down to raise thousands of pounds for charity.

More than 60 fundraisers took the plunge for the New Year Splash event at Newcastle Beach on Saturday morning.

The event was in aid of AWARE (formerly Aware Defeat Depression), who provide a range of services helping people affected by depression across the north.

An estimated £3,000 was raised which will go directly to local people affected by depression and mental illness.

"We were overwhelmed by the response to our New Year Splash," said Teresa Sloan, director of fundraising and communications with the charity.

"We are grateful to those who braved the elements to come out and support us."

The Newcastle Harbour Swimmers were among the dozens of brave bathers who endured single digit temperatures at the event.

Originally scheduled to take place on New Year's Day, AWARE postponed the swim after the Royal National Lifeboat Institution advised them that the conditions on January 1 would be too dangerous.

All those participating were provided with complimentary cups of hot chocolate and free shortbread at the nearby Slieve Donard Resort and Spa, which also rewarded the first 70 do-gooding dippers with free spa passes.

"Those taking part appeared to enjoy it, but I’d say were glad to get into the cozy surroundings of the Slieve Donard," commented Ms Sloan.

"It's a great start to AWARE's 20th anniversary year and we look forward to more successful events in 2016."

AWARE work with those experiencing depression and bipolar disorder and specialise in the promotion of positive mental health and early intervention services.

Their helpline is available on 084 5120 2961 from Monday to Friday, 9am to 1pm.

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