Run ragged: Mental health initiative aims to tackle anxiety

Psychologist Enda Murphy has created a programme that will arm communities with the tools to deal with symptoms of anxiety and depression. Ciara McDonnell finds out more.

Run ragged: Mental health initiative aims to tackle anxiety

Psychologist Enda Murphy has created a programme that will arm communities with the tools to deal with symptoms of anxiety and depression. Ciara McDonnell finds out more.

I am a real raggy doll, according to psychologist Enda Murphy. We all are.

Embracing our imperfections as a means of eradicating anxiety is the thinking behind Murphy’s new mental health initiative, The Raggy Dolls Club.

With experience in all facets of the mental health field, the best-selling author and Harvard faculty member has worked all around the world specialising in anxiety and depression, and believes that first aid for mental health should be just as important as first aid for a bloody nose.

Frustrated with the way that anxiety was being approached, Murphy created his own method, based around the idea that anxiety is caused by five main thought errors.

“We are spending all of our time trying to rescue people from the end of the river,” he explains.

“I believe that you have to go upstream to start teaching people why they are falling in the first place and also how to rescue themselves.”

The Raggy Dolls Club aims to help people from all sectors of the community recognise the essential insights of emotional health and wellbeing.

Through a series of talks and workshops, the initiative will give people an idea of what mental health stems from, equipping them with access to resources and practical solutions for those suffering from anxiety.

In his first talk, taking place tomorrow night at the Accenture Theatre in UCD, Murphy will address the first three of his thinking errors, the first of which is the Panic Attack Cycle.

“We don’t often realise that in the beginning of a panic attack, the person is getting anxious about the physical symptoms of anxiety,” he asserts.

“Then they are turning around and saying ‘I must not be anxious’.”

If you decide to not to think of something, says Murphy, then that’s all you’re going to think about, triggering the attack itself.

Panic attacks, according to the psychologist, are massive whoosh of adrenaline coursing through the body.

“All I do for a living is teach people that it’s no more different than the adrenaline rush that someone gets on a rollercoaster.”

One of the biggest issues in mental health today, believes Enda Murphy, is the enthusiastic diagnosing of people with ‘disorders’.

“By the time a young person comes to me, they feel disordered. The more ‘normal’ they try to become, the more anxious they get, and that’s what brings people to me.

"I want to introduce the idea that nobody is ‘ordered,’ so why should anyone be disordered?”

Enda Murphy of The Raggy Doll Club
Enda Murphy of The Raggy Doll Club

Control is one of the greatest thinking errors that leads to anxiety, emphasises Murphy.

“Think about this. As a new mum, you are going to feel awful for a few years.

"Imagine by feeling terrible, you now believe that there’s something wrong with you — that you are not good enough.”

This thought process leads us to try to be ‘better than we are', says the psychologist, finding us in a cycle of anxiousness about our perceived failures.

“The harder you try to be ‘better’, the worse it gets.”

In parenting, issues of control and anxiety are intertwined, says the psychologist.

"If you haven’t learned how to ditch the concept of control, you are in serious trouble in terms of parenting. Parents who haven’t learned this will try to overly control their children and bring it into the next generation."

There is no such thing as an anxious child, he cautions, merely a child who has yet to learn the tools to deal with it.

With plans to roll their toolkit out countrywide, into primary and secondary schools, The Raggy Dolls Club remains very much a grassroots movement.

It’s all about passing it on. If you join the club, we’ll train you up, but we’ll expect you to pass on the message. We won’t have success without each member doing their part.

Enda Murphy says that 80% of young people will go to their parents or their teacher if they are suffering from anxiety or depression.

“Imagine if we could arm each parent and teacher with the skills to respond in the correct way to those children?”

He says that the message is simple.

“We need to teach our children what anxiety is and how to overcome it. Our mental health first aid kit will give parents and caregivers the ability to teach themselves and the children under their care how to deal with anxiety.”

So what should we expect from attending workshops with The Raggy Dolls Club?

“We will give them the straightforward insights we are teaching combined with some very basic psychology of why we feel the way we feel,” says the psychologist.

“They will gain an understanding of how certain environments can make it worse, and learn how to respond to children who are suffering with anxiety in the best way, and they will be amazed at how quickly the kids will respond.”

For more on The Raggy Dolls Club visit facebook at

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