Upbeat On Air will be presented by celebrity broadcasters to raise awareness about mental-health issues, says Colette Sheridan.
DURING Mental Health Awareness Week (October 6-10), Ireland’s first digital pop-up radio station, Upbeat On Air, will broadcast live from St Patrick’s University Hospital, in Dublin, from 7am to 10pm. The aim is to encourage people to seek professional advice for mental health issues as early as possible.
The presenters will include Alan Shortt, Theresa Lowe, Alison Canavan, Ruth Scott, Karina Buckley, Shay Byrne, Sinead Desmond and Geri Maye.
Here, six of the presenters share their coping strategies:
Model, Alison Canavan (36), a single mother of a four-year-old son, has suffered from depression since her teens.
“I didn’t know what depression was. I was also terrified to say anything, as I felt people would think I was ungrateful, as I had a great career modelling and travelling the world, so what could I possibly have to feel sad about? This is one of the great misconceptions with depression.
“It doesn’t just affect you if you are poor, sick, or, indeed, if you have just experienced a traumatic life event. It can strike when everything is going great and, unless you recognise it and deal with it, it will continue to get worse.
“It wasn’t until I suffered from post-natal depression that I really got the help I needed, as I had someone else to look after and I couldn’t run away anymore.
“To keep myself well, I watch my diet, exercise, get counselling when needed and do meditation. I meditate every day for ten to 20 minutes. I find a little bit of everything is the key to good health.
“Being kind to ourselves is also important, as I spent years putting a lot of pressure on myself and always felt I wasn’t good enough.”
Alison, who has been on medication for depression, is undergoing counselling. “I believe that talking and communication is a huge part of recovery and staying well.”
Comedian, broadcaster, and media skills trainer, Alan Shortt (46), had a difficult time in 2009 and 2010 when work slowed down.
Married, with two children aged 13 and ten, he says: “The crash of ‘net-worth’ led to the crash in ‘self-worth’, which I have now learned was the wrong way to be leading my life. Since then, I have met a lot of unhappy, extremely wealthy people.
“I now find the best way to deal with stress is exercise, short bursts of meditation, and mindfulness. I ran the New York marathon last year and the training definitely helped the mind stay fresh and alive.I avoid excess of alcohol, as it definitely changes the chemistry in the brain.
“I normally experience stress on a day when I have a gig. My brain starts creating irrational thoughts, and my attention span reduces, because my brain begins putting all its energy into retrieving and creating the material I need for my performance later in the evening. I have learned to talk to myself and not take any heed of irrational thoughts. But, to be honest, the best way to relieve stress is to make love. Sex is the best natural stress buster, with happy hormones flooding the body.”
Barrister and former TV presenter, Theresa Lowe (51), is married to RTÈ’s music maestro, Frank McNamara, and has 18-year-old twin boys, a 15-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter.
She has a big, close-knit family, “who are all so loving and supportive”.
Her sister, Joan Freeman, is the CEO of Pieta House. “I am so proud of the fantastic work that Pieta does all over the country. I’m able to talk over any worries or problems I have with my husband, and the wider family. Not everyone is in that position, so I think Upbeat On Air could provide a wonderful support to anyone who has mental-health issues.
“I don’t have any set techniques for dealing with stress. I don’t do yoga or meditation and I get very little exercise, other than cleaning the house. But I do read a lot and find it very relaxing, and I listen to music.
“If I am worried about something, I try not to let it overwhelm me. I count my blessings. I pray a lot too, especially at difficult times... If you have a happy mind, you can take on the world.”
As the presenter of RTÈ Radio One’s early morning Rising Time programme, Shay Byrne (38), a married father of three children aged 11, nine and six, says it’s difficult getting up at 4.10am.
“I’ve never suffered from depression. But, from a mental-health point of view [an early start], it’s precarious. Research says that people who work shifts (such as early morning and late night) are more prone to illness in general and that includes mental illness. Employers like RTÈ touch base regularly to ensure workers take care of themselves. Signs of extreme fatigue must be picked up on and dealt with by extra time off.
“I’m on my own at work. I don’t have a team, so I don’t see anyone from one end of the programme to the other. I’m lucky. I have a naturally cheerful disposition. But it’s something you have to get yourself in the right place for and you have to be careful with it. I do have days when I have the blues. I’m aware of it and I know I have to mind myself.
“I go for walks every day — morning and evening — just to clear my head. I’m careful about what I eat and I’m careful to know the signs of fatigue and mental fatigue.
“I look for positives. I get a lot from my children. My father died in 2000 and I found that year very difficult, but someone gave me the advice to look for the positive in situations and not let the negatives drag you down.”
RTÈ weather presenter and continuity announcer, Karina Buckley, (36), who is single, has never suffered from depression, but gets the blues
“ I work shifts, so my sleep pattern is pretty erratic, but when I feel a gloom settling, I know I need to prioritise sleep and exercise. I also make a real effort to eat well, because my diet can too easily become a routine of coffee, snacks and takeaways. Not exactly brain food.
“Stress is inevitable and I try to use it to my advantage during the working day. It helps me hit deadlines and sharpens up my performance. But it stops being helpful when it ramps up to anxiety, which can happen when my mind, or my life, gets too busy.
“I try to get out of my head and into my body, doing something that focuses my attention and absorbs me, like sketching, cleaning, cooking, ironing, dancing, walking or running. I come back to my life with an altered perspective and, often, with solutions to problems that seemed intractable.”
Geri Maye (41), who is married, is a former Winning Streak presenter and is in talks with RTÈ about a new slot.
She lost six loved ones in 21 months, a year and a half ago. “That was mind-numbing, but the loss of both of my parents, in my 30s, has been beyond words and emotion. When you love deeply, you wound incredibly deeply, too. Nobody tells you that.
“Stress doesn’t come from a studio or being ‘on air’. I adore that aspect. It comes from the company and its politics.
“To try and combat stress, I have done a course in mindfulness, which I found helpful. I believe getting out of the past is always beneficial. Acupuncture is another invaluable practice as stress, for me, can have physical manifestations.
“But my main escape is a good, long run and reading inspirational, powerful writers. It’s a toss between my head and legs moving at any one time.”
‘Upbeat On Air’,October 6-10 on 99.5FM; and at www.upbeat.ie
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