GAA Football

More can be done on mental health says Tyrone Allstar John Lynch

John Lynch at the recent PIPS Ulster Championship preview night in Newry
Andy Watters

TYRONE Allstar John Lynch has welcomed the strides the GAA has made towards addressing mental health issues but says more work needs to be done.

Lynch, who starred for the Red Hands in the 1986 All-Ireland final against Kerry, lost a family a family member to suicide and he described mental health issues as “a silent illness”.

“I’ve been touched by suicide at first hand through my own family,” said the Castlederg clubman.

“Back in my day there wasn’t much awareness of it but there is more now. I think people are taking more pressure on these days and the fact that the GAA is getting involved is very commendable and their input is helping to an extent.

“But there is obviously a lot more that needs to be done, it’s a very silent illness, there are no symptoms, people are going through a lot of serious stuff in their head and you don’t see that.

“It’s great that the GAA is getting involved in it but there is a lot of work needs to be done.”

Meanwhile, former Antrim star Kevin Madden, now the highly-rated manager of Kickham’s Creggan, explained how GAA coaches are becoming increasingly aware of mental health issues. In the past players whose form had dipped could expect a telling off but nowadays coaches need to show more understanding.

“Mental health is a lot more visible now and there are very few of us now who haven’t been touched by suicide,” he said.

“In the early days when I was coaching, if somebody had a bad game or didn’t seem themselves at a training session you would have bollocked them out and asked them what was up with them but we’re starting to understand that people are bringing their day’s work and maybe their family problems on to the football field with them.

“Coaches do have an important role to play in terms of being able to mentor and ask people: ‘Are you ok?’ and being able to help their players through difficult times.

“The GAA have a lot of very good initiatives to give players the opportunity to get help should they need it.”

The PIPS Charity supports individuals who are considering, or who have at some point considered, ending their own lives and provides support to families and friends who have been touched by suicide.

“PIPS Hope and Support is aware of the many issues that our young people are experiencing today and are mindful of the stigma that still surrounds mental health,” said PIPS spokesman Seamus McCabe.

“We understand that many of the coping strategies used today by our youth are negative coping strategies, including alcohol abuse and drug taking, we believe that replacing them with positive coping strategies such as getting involved in sport will help improve our mood, improve our concentration, reduce our stress levels and depression and improve our sleeping patterns.

“Just exercising three or four times a week for at least 30 minutes can provide many mental health benefits.”

Call PIPS Hope & Support, Monday-Friday 9am-5pm on 028 3026 6195 or the lifeline service on 0808 808 8000.

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