In May 2013 I went public about my experiences with depression and explained how I went from playing in the 2011 All-Ireland u21 final in Croke Park with Cavan to imagining crashing my car into a wall in a matter of months.
I chose to share my story in hope that it would prove to other people out there feeling how I had felt that they are not alone. I wanted them to know that it is ok not to feel ok and that it is absolutely ok to ask for help.
It took me a long time to make sense out of the situation I found myself in but I can’t tell you how grateful I am that my suicidal thought at that point was swiftly followed by the image of my parents crying at my funeral in our local church. It took effort, thought and bi-weekly trips to a counsellor for months to fully accept that I was consumed by depression.
But more importantly that spell taught me I can cope with it, manage it and live my life as my pursuit of happiness goes on. I still have bad days but it is really important to remember that there are good days too.
While I firmly believe that people are beginning to understand just how important minding our mental health is, we can and we must as a society keep up the education process and continue to raise awareness.
That is why I am so delighted to be coming to Laois on October to speak as part of the Positive Mental Health and Well-Being Week hosted by Laois GAA Health & Well Being Committee in Mountmellick GAA club at 7pm.
Around our country, organisations like SpunOut.ie with their #DitchTheMonkey campaign promote positive mental health in a way this country has never seen before. I have also worked closely with Cycle Against Suicide and seen first hand how they are helping to strip down the stigma associated with mental health. Equally impressive was the ‘We Wear More’ campaign launched by the Gaelic Players Association that highlighted the fact that we all feel stresses and pressures in different ways and how wearing a county jersey does not make a person bulletproof.
That concept applies to everyone as sometimes we ignore our problems because we feel we have to be strong and tough on the outside. However, we all have feelings and emotions. Sometimes they are happy, other occasions they are sad and that is perfectly ok. We worry about college, work, money, family, relationships and many other things that can affect our lives in different ways.
Around Laois this week, try to make a conscious effort to talk about these concerns more regularly, to mind our mental health and prevent problems from turning into bigger issues down the line. And if anyone reading this is currently residing in a dark place, know that you are not alone. Help is out there for you and the first step in beginning your recovery process is telling somebody that you are not ok.
Reach out to organisations like the Samaritans, you can free-phone on 116-123, or find that one person you trust, the person who if you won the lotto in the morning would be the very first person you would ring to share the news. Don’t be afraid to do it. It’s okay not to feel okay.
Alan O’Mara’s talk will be followed by a Sport Your Mind Workshop facilited by Anthony O’Prey, HSE Health Promotion Office. The event is supported by Laois Sports Partnership and aims to raise awareness of youth mental health and provid information on supports available. All are welcome.