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01 Jul 2022

Laois GAA says supporting physical and mental wellbeing is a 'fundamental priority'

Community and health information evening organised

Laois GAA says supporting physical and mental wellbeing is a 'fundamental priority'

Leona Conroy, Chairperson, Laois GAA Health & Wellbeing Chairperson, pictured in 2017 representing Clonad GAA which was presented with the Official Healthy Club Award by Seán Cavanagh.

Laois GAA says it is responding to the needs of our clubs and communities by hosting an information evening on best practice in the area of substance use, gambling and mental health promotion.

In partnership with the Midland Regional Drug & Alcohol Task Force (MDATF) and the HSE, Laois GAA is hosting an information evening on Tuesday, May 31 7:30pm in the Killeshin Hotel, Portlaoise. 

The association says the aim of the information evening is to promote the range of services and supports available from addiction services and mental health promotion. The GAA says a number of support agencies will be in attendance and will have information stands with a range of information on display providing guidelines on how best clubs can respond proactively in these areas ensuring clubs and communities can access expert advice and support when needed. Laois GAA add that they will also give short presentations on the night.

Services that are scheduled to present on the night include:

-       HSE CADS (Community Alcohol & Drug Service)

-       Merchants Quay Ireland (MQI) DATS (Drug & Alcohol Treatment Support) Project

-       EXTERN MYDAS (Midlands Youth Drug & Alcohol Support) Project

-       An Garda Síochána – Graham Kavanagh (Laois/Offaly Crime Prevention Officer)

-       Extern (Gambling)

-       HSE – Mental Health Promotion

-       Pieta House

-       GAA Health & Wellbeing 

Leona Conroy is the Chairperson of Laois GAA’s Health & Wellbeing Committee.

“Supporting our members physical and mental wellbeing is a fundamental priority of the GAA.   Every town and village up and down the country have had their fair deal of issues around substance use, gambling and mental health issues and there isn’t a week that goes by within our own county that a club reaches out looking for help or assistance in one of these areas.   Very often these issues are hidden and when one addiction is formed it can feed another becoming a vicious cycle and making it difficult for the person affected in getting help.  Clubs are feeling helpless not knowing what to do or where to go for help.

"We are here to let them know there is help at hand and while these issues are not GAA issues and we can't solve every problem, we do have a duty of care to our members off the pitch as well as on it.   No coach/mentor, player or parent should feel they are on their own no matter what the issue or situation they face.  This is about education, it is about responding to problems, proactively and not reactively and it is about putting in those preventive measures which is key to building healthy, vibrant and sustainable communities.  

"This information evening is hopefully the first phase of this plan to get the message out to show how the GAA can support our members who are in trouble.  There is supports out there and we want to make sure our members that need that support can access it and start putting their lives back together again. As we are so embedded into our towns and villages we have a responsibility to play our part in ensuring our clubs have the knowledge of all the specialist helplines and support services available in these areas. 

"We are delighted to be working with the Midland Regional Drug & Alcohol Task Force to bring this information to our clubs. This information evening is Phase 1 of this with the next Phase bringing in training/educational programmes for coaches/mentors, players and parents.   Only by working together and supporting each other can we truly make a difference,” she said. 

Laois GAA’s Health & Wellbeing Committee also stressed the importance of working with clubs to adopt appropriate policies to underpin all this which will help ensure a more sustainable way of tackling these issues.  They say that by adopting the relevant policies within their clubs will help discourage the substance use by prevention, education and appropriate responses should a problem arise. 

Each club has appointed a Healthy Club Officer who is responsible for overseeing the development, implementation and evaluation of these policies in conjunction with the Club Chairperson and Executive. 

Laois GAA says the role of the GAA’s Health & Wellbeing Committee is to ensure the health of their members, clubs and communities is at the core of all GAA activity.  It adds that creating a safe and a positive environment for all GAA members to experience is paramount to all that we as an organisation value and strive to achieve.  

The Association says the event will prove to be a very informative and valuable resource for all clubs and communities in the county in tackling these issues proactively, sensitively and following best practices.

Tea/Coffee will be served on the night.  It is envisaged that all clubs in the GAA; Hurling, Gaelic Football, Camogie and Handball will be represented on the night by members of their adult and underage clubs. 

For more information please contact Leona Conroy, Chairperson, Health & Wellbeing Committee, Laois GAA on chair.hwc.laois@gaa.ie

The event takes place in the Killeshin Hotel, Portlaoise on Tuesday, May 31 at 7:30pm.

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