The GAA must take the macho image out of its games, if it is to play a part in reducing the number of suicides in the country.
GAA president Liam O’Neill says the GAA has a significant role to play in helping to deal with the suicide crisis.
Mr O’Neill, who is backing a campaign by GAA personalities to raise €100,000 next month in Galway for Pieta House, the suicide and self-harm support centre, said that they need to start working with children to help change the macho image and get people to talk about their troubles.
“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’.
“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.
“But that the awareness at adult level can’t really come about unless we change our attitude to children and particularly young boys. And I think that we have to realise that at times we didn’t value children as much in this country, that’s been obvious by the evidence that’s been unearthed in the recent weeks and months and years,” said Mr O’Neill.
He said the most difficult task he has had in over two years since he became GAA president was attending funerals of young people, especially those who died by suicide.
In October last year Galway senior hurler Niall Donohue took his own life at the age of 22. Mr O’Neill said the GAA was not immune at any level to the scale of suicide which has swept the country.
He 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 aged 24.
The money raised will go to Pieta House and Mr O’Neill said more work needs to be done to reduce the number of suicides.
“Hopefully many young people will be steered toward Pieta House and will have the benefit of the wonderful service that they provide. I know some people who are availing of the service, I know a young person who is self-harming and she got some fantastic support.
“I know that a lot of clubs are involved with Pieta House; I know that a lot of clubs are now wearing the Pieta House logo as a show of support; and I think the thing that affects young people most now is this worry of death through suicide. I know it’s not uniquely male, but it’s mainly male at a young age and we need to find ways to deal with it.”
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