Nobody is immune from mental health problems during lockdown

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BY DENIESE O’FLAHERTY

I recently got chatting to an elderly GAA supporter. This man has been there and done it in terms of playing football. He’s also the life and soul of the party when the club has events but he showed me he has a vulnerable side too. He admitted he got depressed during the lockdown.

For this man, meeting up with people, going to the pub to see friends and going to matches were his life. Suddenly he had nothing. The biggest loss for him was not having sport. He said he was lucky that his wife and family were great but nothing could help him spiralling into depression.

I began to think, how many more were like him? I admit I had negative thoughts as the weeks went by during lockdown. My mother’s health was a big concern, my new nephew (he was just born when the country went into lockdown), as well as my job. Not having sport and not knowing if it was going to resume made me fear for my job. All I’ve known is sport. When I was young I watched it, tried to play and went to games. I wanted from an early age to work in sports media. 

Without sport I wondered what way my life could go. A friend suggested to me to make a podcast; put my spare time to good use. I decided to do just that and made a documentary about a local club: Mullinalaghta. You can find it on Spotify or Soundcloud (have to give it a plug).

It was something that got me out of a rut; I don’t like gardening and baking – well my brother took after our mam and grandmothers with that. I can just about do a decent spag bol.

I was lucky to find something to do but for that elderly gentleman above and others it was hard to see positives during lockdown. The good weather made things bearable but having your life turned upside down and not knowing when things could go back to some kind of normality can worry you.

For that gentleman, the resumption of sport gave him a lift. He watched games on tv but was so happy to go back watching the local club play. He was quick to give out about the performances of some but you could see from the sparkle in his eyes he was so happy to be back. He told me how much he appreciated being able to go to games again.

He also mentioned how easy it was to get depressed and how men are quick to hide it and not talk about it. So very true. GAA clubs and communities around the country have been impacted by the loss of members due to mental health. And it’s not just young people it affects. As the slogan goes – “it’s okay, not to be okay.” Always remember that, and please if you are feeling low talk to someone. Remember – you are not alone.

 

Useful numbers – 

Aware – 01 661 7211/01 524 0361

Pieta House – Call free 1800 247 247 or text HELP to 51444

The Samaritans – Call free 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.ie