'so normal' | 

PJ Gallagher thought stay in St Pat’s would be like ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’

The 47-year-old spent almost three months in St Patrick’s mental health facility in Dublin earlier this year after suffering a complete breakdown.

Deirdre ReynoldsSunday World

Comedian PJ Gallagher has revealed how he expected to feel like Jack Nicholson in ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’ after being admitted to a psychiatric hospital.

The 47-year-old spent almost three months in St Patrick’s mental health facility in Dublin earlier this year after suffering a complete breakdown.

But he told how the life-saving experience couldn’t have been more different from the 1975 Oscar-winning film about a criminal sent to a state mental hospital for evaluation after feigning insanity to avoid hard labour.

“I had One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest in my head and Nurse Ratched and so on,” said PJ, referring to the stern character famously played by Louise Fletcher. “Crazy things.”

“You go into hospital and it is literally like a retreat. I loved it. I want to go there every year for a week.

“I know that sounds mad but I do. It's just so normal. It is normal people going through a normal thing and when you realise that and you’re not afraid to talk about that anymore, it becomes a lot easier, you know?”

Brave PJ shattered taboos around male mental health, particularly, when he opened up about his illness on The Late Late Show in October.

Speaking to pal Stefanie Preissner on Newstalk, whom he previously credited with helping to bring him back from the brink, a year on, the Dubliner said he has never felt better after getting professional help.

“I can’t believe the mood I am in this year compared to how I was last year,” told PJ, who entered St Patrick’s last December for 11 weeks. “I just can’t believe the difference.

“To be honest, the normality of it is what has really helped me.

“I told you about it this time last year and all that was important to me was the cover-up,” recalled the Radio Nova presenter.

“No one can find out, you know? No one can know I’m struggling and no one can know I’m in hospital and that was because I had all these ideas of what that meant – being worthless afterwards and being constantly seen as someone who is fragile afterwards; when you’re coming out of hospital, people thinking they’ll have to be on their tippy toes around you.

“That is just not the case. In fact, it is the other way around. People just say, ‘good or you’ and ‘fair play’ and I guess, for me, remembering how normal it is helps.”

Inspiring PJ was recently targeted by Conor McGregor, who mocked The Young Offenders star for “crying in the paper about depression” on Twitter.

And the social media spat spiralled when football legend Paul McGrath urged him to “take no notice of bullies” before also being slammed by the MMA fighter.

Urging others who may be struggling to seek intervention, PJ admitted it may not be as simple as talking it out with a friend.

“I felt excluded from the whole mental health conversation because everyone was saying, put on your runners, go for a walk, go for a sea swim, eat green food and for me I was saying, I am so far beyond that,” he told.

“My mental health isn’t struggling. I am mentally ill. I am sick. I am really, really sick. So that conversation didn’t feel like it was clicking with me.

“Getting out and doing anything is good for your mental health but when you’re sick, getting your hair cut and going for a walk isn’t going to help.

“I prefer to say mentally ill now because it just feels more real.”

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