Fermanagh GAA club bringing ‘power to the people’

A LOCAL GAA club is continuing its mission to “bring power back to the people” when it comes to improving community mental health.

With GPs now a rare species in the south and east of the county, and Lisnaskea’s Maple Health Centre struggling to cope with an influx of patients from other practices as a result, accessing health care has become increasingly difficult.

At the same time, the area has been rocked by a spate of heart-breaking deaths to suicide in recent years, while mental health issues have also been on the rise in the wider area.


That’s where the Lisnaskea Emmetts have stepped in, with the club taking it on itself to do all it can to provide mental health support to the community, and now encouraging other GAA clubs to do the same

Speaking to the Herald, health and well being officer Paul McGoldrick said the club’s aim was to get to the root cause of mental health problems.

“It’s like what Desmond Tutu said, it’s OK pulling people out of the stream all the time, but sometimes you need to go more upstream to see why they’re jumping in,” he said.

In recent months Paul and the Emmetts have been running a series of initiatives, such as workshops, and they have plenty more in the pipeline. They have also been working with Patricia Flanagan and the team at the Oak Healthy Living Centre.

Noting the number of deaths to suicide had increased in Fermanagh in recent years, with 18 in 2020, Paul said issues of social deprivation and inequality played a role in the problems.

“Suicides rates here are higher than in other areas, yet they are stripping our GPs and other services,” he said. “Power has to come from the grass roots up. It’s imperative that it’s that way.”

Paul, who has been researching and writing about the problems, said he believed GAA clubs were well placed at grassroots level in the community to tackle the issues.


“On the field of play we enjoy a healthy rivalry and competitiveness with other local GAA clubs, but in terms of promoting better mental health and wellbeing within our clubs and our communities, we recognise it is imperative that we collectively work together as no individual, family, or community is immune from suffering from poor mental health,” he said.

“In continuing to raise awareness around mental health and offer support for anyone who might be in distress, Lisnaskea Emmetts have erected posters in various areas locally, including GAA grounds.

“Alongside communities like the GAA, the government also needs to go up-stream, look at the social causes and fix those policies and systems that are harming people.”

If you are a GAA club or other organisation thinking of improving mental wellbeing in your area, and would like some advice, Paul welcomes questions and queries on the Lisnaskea Emmetts’ Facebook page.

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