Earlier this week, the story of former Dublin footballer, Tomás Mulligan, appeared on the GAA website. Tomás was a fit and popular young family man who tragically took his own life in 2007.
Reading the article brought to mind similar stories such as those of Darren Sutherland, Gary Speed and Robert Enke. Talented young men taken by illness in their prime.
In spite of these high profile deaths, recent campaigns and subsequent improvements, men in particular still tend to hide their emotions while letting on everything is OK.
The fact is, every one of us, no matter who we are, suffers at some point with mental illness. I myself have suffered with anxiety and panic attacks and there have been times when dark clouds have threatened to descend. Luckily, I was encouraged from a young age not to bottle things up and while it has been uncomfortable at times, this attitude has always helped. However, I understand that this is not the case with many young men who feel they can’t open up about such feelings.
Within Irish sporting circles there have been a number of stories relating to depression and mental health over the last number of years and Irish sporting bodies, to their credit, have attempted to tackle the issues at play. Many brave young people have come to the fore in this regard and while this has helped to move the conversation along, we mustn’t get complacent. An environment where it’s OK to talk about feelings, worries and fears needs to be developed, particularly amongst young men. There’s never a bad time to do this and there is certainly never a bad time to talk.
Something else which caught my eye this week was a quote attributed to Joost van der Westhuizen, the former Springbok scrum-half who sadly lost his battle with Motor Neurone Disease last Monday, it read:
“Two things we humans take for granted – health and time.”
It’s time we stopped taking mental health for granted and got comfortable talking about it.
The following is a list of contacts who are there to help: Pieta House 1800 247 247, STOP Suicide 1850 211 877 or 086-7772009.