Taobh Thiar Den Gheansaí: Mental Health and the GAA

Last year I took some time out from getting ACLAÍ off the ground, and coaching the Cork Senior Football Team, to get involved in putting together a documentary dealing with the issues of mental health in the GAA. It was a project that I was cautious about getting involved in for several reasons. Aside from the fact that I was up to my eyeballs with one project or another already, I was extremely conscious that the issue mental health, and suicide in particular is a very current, painful, and life shattering experience. Initially my biggest concern was how I would come across personally when presenting a topic of this nature, and if I would be up for the job. It didn’t take me long to make a decision however, as the GAA has been a part of my life from a very early age, and the issue of suicide and mental health awareness has touched just about everybody in this country in one shape or form. I work a lot in the GAA, and suicide among young males in this country is at an epidemic level. I genuinely wanted to find out more about the issues of mental health, and went in with the attitude that if one person is positively affected by this show then it would have been worth it.

We travelled the length and breadth of the country to get a feel for the overall scale of the issue facing us when it comes to mental health, spoke with the GPA, GAA, psychologists, and heard many personal stories of loss and hope from people who were directly affected by the issue. It would have been impossible to go into this project and come out the other side unaffected by the stories that were told, and I am not afraid to say that at times I found it tough to hold myself together. Speaking with friends, relatives, and teammates of those who felt like their only option was to end their own lives is a heartbreaking experience, not to mention the reality that they are now facing life without their loved ones. The whole process of making this documentary also opened me up to a lot of personal reflection.

I will see the finished version of the program for the first time, when it airs on Sunday the 20th of September (TG4), but wanted to get in there before it goes out to sincerely thank everyone who was involved in the making of it. Tara Ní Mhurchú, Fearghal Ó Maolagáin, Máire Bhreathnach, Below the Radar, the film crew, all the contributors, and most especially everyone who gave up their time to share their personal stories with us. I hope that the show does justice to all who have worked and contributed to make it. Beir Bua, Ainle