By Madeline O’Connor
The GAA held its first National Health & Wellbeing seminar in Croke Park on Saturday, March 22.
The event featured a keynote address from mental health advocate Conor Cusack a member of the new National GAA Health & Wellbeing Committee, and contributions from representatives from the HSE, Public Health Agency, National Office for Suicide Prevention, and GAA members working in the area at grassroots level.
An tUachtarán CLG, Liam Ó Néill, was in attendance while the An tUachtarán-tofa, Aogán Ó Fearghail, delivered the closing address to delegates highlighting the intention of the incoming President to continue driving the community and health-agenda within the Association as set by his predecessor.
“I have spoken with An tUachtarán-tofa on this topic and he shares my belief that this work should remain at the core of our future endeavours. It reflects what the GAA is all about,” said Liam O’Neill.
The day was designed by the GAA’s Community & Health Dept to offer information, support and guidance to the new Health & Wellbeing Committees currently being set up by each County Board in Ireland and the 100 plus delegates will be drawn from these.
Delegates included, amongst others, county coaching officers, ASAP officers (the GAA’s Alcohol and Substance Abuse Prevention programme), Inclusion and Integration officers, and coordinators of the GAA Social Initiative, designed to tackle isolation amongst older members of our communities.
Plenary sessions touched on the work the GAA is already doing in this space at club and county level with presentations from Dr Janas Harrington, lead of the Health Club Project team in St. Finbarr’s Hurling and Football Club, Cork, and Fiona Teague, who chairs the Tyrone Health & Wellbeing Committee and is also Health Improvement Manager with the Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland.
Breakout Workshops touched on topics including mental health, drug and alcohol awareness, community outreach and social inclusion, critical incident response, and good policy and governance for promoting health through the sport setting.
The event set out the GAA’s commitment to empowering all its members in responding the population’s health needs at community level, in line with the Healthy Ireland framework and the GAA’s on-going partnership with the Irish Health sector.
April has been identified as a month of action on the issue of mental health with the Association announcing a new national partnership with a leading 32-county mental health charity and launching mental health packs for clubs and players designed in association with St. Patrick’s Foundation, Dublin.