Former Armagh All-Ireland winning gaelic footballer Oisín McConville delivered a powerful talk to students of IT Sligo as part of the Institute’s Mental Health Day on Wednesday.
McConville, who lifted the Sam Maguire with the Orchard County in 2002, shared some very personal mental health experiences on and off the field of play.
The Crossmaglen native is one of the country’s most decorated footballers at both club and intercounty level. But during that illustrious 19-year playing career, McConville went through a turbulent period in his life off the pitch.
In his book ‘The Gambler’, McConville detailed how a gambling addiction took hold of him and threatened his life itself. He eventually dealt with his addiction, and is now a trained counsellor, specialising in CBT and suicide prevention.
“The more we take the stigma away from talking about mental health, the better people will feel about coming forward,” says the 39-year-old father of two.
“They realise there is help there and I think, to be honest, I always say there is an onus on us as sportspeople to lead from the front. With mental health issues, you do need to deal with them and deal with them properly, or else they will come back to haunt you.”
Mental Health Day is an initiative developed by the Student Counselling Service at IT Sligo with the aim of promoting, and raising awareness of the importance of mental health and general well-being. It’s estimated that at least one in five adults experience mental health issues at some time in their lives.
McConville had one key piece of advice for anybody who feels at rock bottom. “Find the courage to talk to ONE person.”
This event was coordinated by Dr Siobhan McNally, counselling psychologist at the Institute’s Student Counselling Service in conjunction with IT Sligo Students Union (ITSSU).
“We were delighted that such an inspirational figure as Oisín, a talented and extremely successful athlete, came speak to our students about the challenges he has faced, and how he effectively coped with these challenges,” she said.
“The feedback from both students and staff who attended was extremely positive.”
Pictured (L-R) Cillín Folan – ITSSU , Oisín McConville, Stephen Doak – ITSSU President,
Helen Campbell – ITSSU, & Dr Siobhan McNally – Counselling Psychologist at IT Sligo.