STAYING STRONG 'Youth need help to beat adversity like I did', says Dublin GAA star Philly McMahon
As a seven-time All-Ireland winning footballer, Philly McMahon (33) is accustomed to clocking up the big moments on the pitch.
But the true-blue star, who married his long-term girlfriend Sarah Lacy last December, said he's no stranger to dealing with tough times and he credits the many challenges that he's had in life with helping him deal with the Covid crisis so well.
Speaking about the spike in mental health issues such as anxiety, particularly among young people, the Dublin and Ballymun Kickhams player said more support is the key.
"For any normal person who hasn't been through any adversity in life, this would be a struggle. You can't deny that," said Philly.
"For me personally, because of what I went through, this stuff is easy. It doesn't feel as if it's tough.
"Although I've had difficulties in business, financial difficulties, I don't feel it's as much of a stress on my mental health as other people."
The Ballymun native was left reeling after his older brother John died from heroin addiction in 2012.
He was just 31 at the time and Philly said he never realised that his sibling had struggled with mental health issues.
"I didn't have a bad upbringing, I had a normal household, a normal family, apart from John who was struggling with his addiction, and I didn't realise that.
"I thought at the time, 'Ah sure, it's a selfish thing to take drugs'.
"But generally there's a deep psychological need around that and it was only when he passed away that I went and educated myself around that.
"John struggled with his mental health, which led to him taking drugs, which led him on a cycle of drugs leading to heroin and eventually John was on the streets.
"He went into criminality to feed his habit and unfortunately, he passed away.
"So that's the pathway that we see over generation and generation."
He said we need a "multi-disciplinary approach" to tackle the issue head-on and is urging the Government to provide more funding for youth services.
For him, playing GAA from an early age has helped him work through all of his issues.
"If I didn't have sport to vent my negative energy around my brother's addiction, I don't know where I would have vented that energy," he said.
Philly, who has become a huge role model thanks to all his work with young people in disadvantaged communities, has teamed up with Vhi for the launch of its new Health and Wellbeing Fund in partnership with the Irish Youth Foundation.
Vhi wants to fund projects that strengthen resilience in young people and help them manage anxiety.
Open to applications from non-profit charity organisations that work directly with young people, grants of €5,000 and €10,000 will be made available.
The sports star said for every €1 the Government spends on youth services, it saves €4 down the line, and he is still in contact with some of the youth workers from the clubs that he accessed growing up.
"We need to help young people so if they're not into sport, there's these youth organisations and at least they'll have something in the community to help put them on the right path," he said.