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Sen. Joan Freeman to visit Emmetsburg as 2020 Irish dignitary

EMMETSBURG — Joan Freeman, a senator in the Irish Parliament, will preside over the St. Patrick’s Day festivities today through March 15 in Emmetsburg.

The public is invited to meet Freeman at an open house from 3 to 5 p.m.. Thursday at St. Pat’s Headquarters. Irish Coffee and treats will be served.

Freeman was born in Clontarf, Dublin, the sixth of eight children of Marie and John Lowe. She is married to Patrick Freeman and they have four children.

After getting her degrees, she started her counseling experience with Accord and loved working with married couples.

After a personal tragedy, she noticed there was a huge lack of suicide prevention services in Ireland and went about establishing the country’s only organization providing a free, professional, face-to-face, therapeutic service for people in the acute stages of distress. In 2006, she set up Pieta House, the Centre for the Prevention of Self-harm or Suicide. Pieta House has since established 12 additional centers across Ireland with almost 270 therapists and administration staff, providing free therapeutic services to over 30,000 people.

Freeman regularly speaks to groups and organizations around the country, promoting tolerance and educating people around suicide and self-harm.

Freeman created and held the very first 5k walk which began at 4 a.m. in the dark and ended as the dawn broke in 2009, in the Phoenix Park in Dublin. Along with 400 people, she set off on the inaugural Darkness into Light to raise funds for Pieta House.

Having brought the services of Pieta House to great heights, and having helped thousands of people in suicidal distress, in 2015, Freeman readjusted her focus and brought the work of Pieta House to the United States, opening up Solace House.

The center was formally opened in early November 2017 by Minister for Children Katherine Zappone and Consul General of Ireland in New York, Ciarn Madden.

Her numerous achievements in her first 18 months as senator include holding a public consultation on mental health, inviting the parents of children using mental health services, and those who provided these services, to have their say. And one of her most recent achievements include an amendment to legislation that will make it illegal to place children in adult psychiatric wards.

She was instrumental in the formation of the first ever Irish Committee on the Future of Mental Healthcare and is chair of the committee as well as convening and chairing the Government’s first Public Consultation Committee on Children’s Mental Healthcare in Ireland in June 2017.

Freeman is a member of the Joint Committee on Children and Youth Affairs. She is a former member of the Council for Justice and Peace of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

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