On Friday 26th May, Kildare GAA hosted a Mental Health Awareness Evening in Newbridge Town Hall. The purpose of this evening was to create awareness and minimise the stigma associated with Mental Health.
The theme for the night was ‘Be Kind To Your Mind’, and each of the speakers focused their talks around this.
Opening the event was Stacey Cannon, Stacey is the National Health and Wellbeing co-ordinator for the GAA. Stacey spoke about what the GAA has to offer in the area of Health and Wellbeing, Stacey also explained how the GAA are constantly working to improve areas of Mental Fitness.
Famous ex-Armagh footballer, Oisin McConville was our next speaker; Oisin gave an honest and detailed account of his struggles with Gambling since he was 14 years old. Oisin spoke about his personal journey and the challenges he faced while living with Gambling addiction. While in recovery since 2005, Oisin told the audience he knows now the most important lesson to be learnt from his addiction was, not reaching out for help or talking to anyone about his problem. His role now as an Addiction Counsellor involves helping others in similar situations. For the length of Oisins talk you could have heard a pin drop in the room as he captured the full audience with his emotional talk.
Our next speaker was ex Cork Camogie player, Anna Geary. Anna spoke passionately about her personal experiences with anxiety and how to cope being ‘comfortable in your uncomfortable self’. Anna spoke about being pro-active in your Mental Fitness, taking care of yourself both physically, nutritionally, and mentally. Anna believes we all need to challenge ourselves, whether it be on the pitch or off it. Anna gave some tools in prioritising the different areas of our life and how to cope when decisions have to be made.
Following from Anna was Larry Murphy, former Wexford Hurler. Larry captured the audience with his detailed account of his work with Marine Watch in Wexford, a group of people who spend the weekends walking the marine area of Wexford, assisting young people with suicidal thoughts. Since the setup of this initiative no lives have been lost in the sea through suicide. Larry spoke of the importance in not losing sight of young people enjoying GAA and not concentrating solely on winning.
Our next speaker was Rory Doody, Head of Mental Health Engagement for Cork and Kerry. Rory gave a heart rendering account of his personal experiences within the Psychiatric System as a young person. He bravely shared his personal journey, capturing the hearts of the audience. Rory acknowledged the importance of communicating with others. He told of his taking control of his life and now he works for the HSE. With his experiences of both sides of the Mental Health Services, Rory was passionate about being kind to our minds.
Our last speaker was Kevin McManamon, Dublin Footballer. Kevin shared his personal experiences with performance anxiety and how his negative thoughts would take over his mind on big performance days. He shared stories of how speaking to young people now, in schools, he can help them in the areas he himself has struggled. Kevin spoke about the importance of reaching out and not being afraid to ask for help.
Before our speakers finished, a special request was made to the committee by local well-known photographer, Adrian Melia to address the audience. Adrian gave an energetic performance displaying his positive Mental Health. Adrian shared his present journey with his battle with cancer. He explained how his mental health has helped him to remain so positive. Adrian’s positive outlook was acknowledged by everyone present, with a warm round of applause, as he completed his talk.
County chairman Ger Donnelly addressed the audience, acknowledging the work of the organising committee and also asking all clubs to ensure they have a Health and Wellbeing Officer.
A questions and answers session was open to the floor at this stage and the panel answered any questions put to them.
The feedback on the evening was a very positive one, with a member of the audience congratulating Kildare GAA for hosting such an evening and other organisations should follow their example.
Thanks to Marie Clancy, John McCarthy, John Joe Walsh and the Health & Wellbeing Committee for the fantastic work in the organisation of the event.