independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Number of GAA stars in need of counselling trebled in 2013

17 December 2013; The number of county players accessing the GPA Confidential Counselling Service trebled in 2013 according to the association's annual review of the programme published today. Cavan footballer Alan O'Mara, left, Offaly footballer Niall McNamee, and Cork hurler Conor Cusack, in attendance to help promote the publication of the GPAs annual review of its Mental Health Programme. Gaelic Players Association, Northwood House, Santry, Dublin. Picture credit: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE
Cavan footballer Alan O'Mara, left, Offaly footballer Niall McNamee, and Cork hurler Conor Cusack, in attendance to help promote the publication of the GPA's annual review of its Mental Health Programme. Photo: Sportsfile

THE number of GAA players accessing mental health services trebled in 2013.

There was an increase of 203pc of county players accessing the counselling services of the Gaelic Players Association (GPA).

By the end of October, 94 GAA stars had reached out for help.

GPA chief executive Dessie Farrell said that the death of Galway hurler Niall Donohue earlier this year "sharpened the focus" of their programme.

"We know we must redouble our efforts to make sure that the young men in society struggling with distress are encouraged to engage with support, that we hear the call and recognise the signs of their distress," Mr Farrell said.

The GPA counselling programme provides a dedicated phone line, one-to-one counselling and residential treatment for players suffering distress in their lives.

CAUSE

Former Cork hurler Conor Cusack recently spoke out about his own mental health problems.

The GPA have credited him with a surge in requests for help.

"The GPA told me they've seen a steady and large increase in the number of players who have asked for help since I spoke out," he told the Irish Independent.

Mr Cusack's article 'Depression is a friend, not my enemy,' received global reaction.

"I got a phenomenal response and I've spoken to media outlets all over the world from Australia to the US and to Germany and not a day goes by without getting 15 or so emails and not a night goes by without getting a few calls," explained Mr Cusack.

He described having an "unhealthy relationship" with hurling prior to his seeking help.

He added: "As long as I was achieving and succeeding I felt good about myself. Having my sense of self built on something outside of myself was a very rocky thing. Every time I hear about someone who takes their own life it affects me greatly, I feel a lot of sadness," admitted the mental health activist.

"I don't believe anyone's a hopeless cause."

Irish Independent

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