Monday 16 December 2019

Let's ditch 'macho' image to cut suicide – GAA boss

GAA chief Liam O'Neill
GAA chief Liam O'Neill

John Fallon

GAA president Liam O'Neill says the organisation needs to take the macho image out of their games if they are to play a part in reducing the number of suicides in the country.

He said that the GAA, as the country's biggest sporting organisation, had a significant role to take in helping to deal with the loss of life.

Mr O'Neill, who is backing a campaign by GAA personalities to raise €100,000 next month in Galway for the suicide and self-harm centre, Pieta House, said it needed to start working with children to help change the macho image.

"I think it's important that we play our part in defining a new masculinity, a masculinity that doesn't centre around the fact that big boys don't cry and big boys don't show their feelings because that's what locks the hearts and the mind of the child when they want later on as adults to express themselves, to say I'm in bother here I need someone to talk to," he said.


"I think that sometimes we're asking people to turn as adults and address the difficulties that they have in relation to mental health and in relation to the despair they might be going through and in relation to expressing their feelings."

However, he said that such "awareness" at adult level can't really come about unless the attitude towards mental health and the ability to talk to others was changed at a much younger age.

The most difficult task he has had in more than two years since becoming GAA president was attending funerals of young people, especially those who died by suicide, he said.

In October last year, Galway senior hurler Niall Donohue took his own life at the age of 22.

Mr O'Neill is giving his backing to a charity walk in Galway next month called '100,000 Steps For Cormac' which is being organised by former All-Ireland winning captain Joe Connolly in honour of his nephew Cormac who died from an inoperable brain tumour three years ago at the age of 24.

"Hopefully many young people will be steered toward Pieta House and will have the benefit of the wonderful service that they provide.

"With young people, suicide can happen at any stage and we want to stop other people and other families going through it."

Irish Independent

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