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Shane Carthy of DCU Dóchas Éireann kicks a point during the 2020 Sigerson Cup Semi-Final match between DCU Dóchas Éireann and UCD at Dublin City University Sportsgrounds in Glasnevin, Dublin. 
Shane Carthy of DCU Dóchas Éireann kicks a point during the 2020 Sigerson Cup Semi-Final match between DCU Dóchas Éireann and UCD at Dublin City University Sportsgrounds in Glasnevin, Dublin. 

Shane Carthy endorses ‘One Good Coach’ mental health training workshop


The first person outside of his family that Dublin footballer Shane McCarthy spoke with about his mental health problems was his then county U21 manager, Dessie Farrell.

This is not unusual. Players and athletes often develop a close bond with their coaches; a connection that stretches beyond the parameters of their sporting codes. If based on experience, they see coaches as trustworthy, someone they can turn to in times of need. They know that they are in their corner, no matter what.

Research conducted by UCD’s Psychology Department in partnership with Jigsaw, the National Centre for Youth Mental Health, has demonstrated the importance of all young people having access to such people, or ‘One Good Adult’ as they define them. The majority of the 20,000 young people (aged 12-25) surveyed as part of the ‘My World’ identified parents and grandparents as the ‘One Good Adult’ they turn to. But other mentors such as teachers and sports coaches also featured. This prompted the GAA’s Community & Health department to work with Jigsaw to develop a ‘One Good Coach’ workshop, which is now available to access on the GAA’s e-learning platform at https://learning.gaa.ie/courses/OneGoodCoach/ and is also being promoted by the LGFA and Camogie Associations across their memberships.

Based on the successful workshop Jigsaw delivers face-to-face across its 12 services, the module offers participants a greater understanding of mental health and the importance of their role as One Good Adult, and a greater awareness of how to promote and support young people’s mental health. While designed with a coach in mind, it should prove equally informative to Healthy Club or Children’s Officers, any volunteers that work with young people, or even interested parents or young people themselves. The evidence-based interactive 40-minute content explores the principles that underpin good mental health and includes tips for promoting youth mental health.

When approached to act as ambassador for the ‘One Good Coach’ workshop, Shane Carthy was delighted to be involved. His story, like everyone’s, is unique. But it helps to reinforce the potential impact ‘One Good Coach’ can have on a young person’s life.

Dessie Farrell coached Shane Carthy at minor and U-21 level with Dublin. 
Dessie Farrell coached Shane Carthy at minor and U-21 level with Dublin. 

Back in 2014, Shane had put in a man-of-the-match display in the Leinster U21 championship final, despite, in his own words, experiencing complete inner turmoil the day of the game, and the weeks and even months leading up to it. As the rest of his team-mates celebrated the win in the Portlaoise changing rooms, Shane was already in his father’s car on his way home. Sitting silently.

“I was the person with the ideal life – talented at sport, a family who supported me and a Dublin career going well. This is what it seemed from the outside looking in, but for me it was anything but. I kept this (his depression) a secret from everyone, friends, family etc.,” Shane recalls.

He also acknowledges that he didn’t have the emotional literacy to understand or articulate what he was going through. He initially put his dip in mood down to a young man’s changing hormones.

Before seeking assistance for his condition, sport had been Shane’s coping mechanism. But things had escalated to such a degree that even his life’s passion could no longer distract him from the constant pain and depression he was feeling. He opened up to his family who encouraged him to speak with his manager and mentor, too. Dessie had worked previously as a psychiatric nurse, but this is largely incidental. As a coach, he is known for placing the wellbeing of his players above all else. As Shane revealed to Dessie his state of mind, he was immediately reassured that everything possible would be done to assist him on his journey to recovery. Shane too notes the support of Mick Galvin, another coach with that successful U21 Dublin squad.

Shane was receiving residential treatment in St. Patrick’s Foundation while his team secured Dublin’s place in the 2014 All Ireland U21 final. At the pre-final press gathering Dessie and his coaching team ensured that mental health became part of the national conversation by announcing that Shane was receiving residential treatment for depression. The story was covered on the front and the back pages and across the airwaves.

“A weight fell off my shoulders instantly,” Shane notes. “I could finally focus on my treatment and overcoming the adversity I had experienced for too long. I continued to learn a lot about myself throughout the coming weeks and months I spent in hospital. I learned skills and coping mechanisms which I could resort to in times of difficulty, many of which I still rely on today.”

Shane Carthy pictured with his parents on his University graduation day. 
Shane Carthy pictured with his parents on his University graduation day. 

One of Shane’s coping mechanisms is running. Physical activity is a great stress buster in during the current Covid-19 crisis many people are missing this mental health booster. Other coping mechanisms are also restricted, such as visits with family and friends, exploring the countryside. Therefore, it is now more important than ever that we remain mindful of our mental health and vigilant of its needs. Thankfully, there is still much we can do, and there are many supports available should anyone experience mental health problems during this period of social distancing and staying at home.

In addition to the GAA’s collaboration with Jigsaw (see more about their work here: www.jigsaw.ie), the Association’s national mental health partner is Samaritans, who continue to run their freephone helpline (116-123) throughout the crisis, seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Their trained volunteers offer a friendly and non-judgemental ear should anything be weighing on your mind, or should you simply fancy a chat.

The Irish government this week launched a one-stop shop for all matters wellbeing during Covid-19 and can be accessed here: www.gov.ie/together. It contains all the factual information any GAA member might need including useful content specific to mental health and links to www.yourmentalhealth.ie

Mental health Ireland has also compiled in one location useful resources and advice regarding your mental health, including an updated Covid-19 responsive version of the 5 Ways to Wellbeing accessible here: https://www.mentalhealthireland.ie/get-support/covid19/

Finally, this week the HSE and the NHS jointly launched an online 3-week stress control programme – available here: Stresscontrol.org.

The CBT-based content will be familiar to clubs including St. Finbarr’s National Football and Hurling Club and Midleton in Cork, and St. Sylvester’s and St. Oliver Plunkett Eoghan Ruadh’s in Dublin, who, in addition to Cavan GAA, made a similar programme available to members and their communities as part of their participation in the GAA Healthy Club Project, run in partnership with Healthy Ireland, the National Office for Suicide Prevention, the PHA, and Irish Life.

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