Former rugby star to speak out on depression

Eamonn Wynne

Eamonn Wynne

Former rugby star Alan Quinlan has spoken about his anxiety-related depression in a bid to help others combat the illness.

“It’s very common. One in four people suffer from depression at some stage of their lives. Everybody knows someone who has been through a bad time because of bereavement, the loss of a job or other reasons. But some people are frightened and ashamed to speak about it”, he says.

The former Irish and Munster star from Barronstown, Tipperary, who retired from the game earlier this year, will be at the Clonmel Park Hotel from 7pm on this Thursday (24th) to promote positive mental health by discussing the role that mind management plays in enhancing performance and managing mental health.

He’ll speak at the event as part of the Lean on Me campaign, supported by Lundbeck Ireland and Aware, which was developed to encourage better understanding of the condition, encourage friends and family to provide support to those affected and encourage them to seek treatment if necessary.

“The most important thing is to get people talking about it. Awareness is the key”, he says.

Alan said he hadn’t been depressed all his life but has suffered from anxiety-related depression over the years.

“It’s only really in the last year or so that I’ve learned to manage it and I’m much more positive about things now than in the past.

While I’m blessed to have had such a successful career (he’s the most capped Munster player of all time), playing rugby is a highly pressurised environment and I suffered a lot from performance anxiety.  There is a constant worry in professional sport around whether you’re playing well enough and whether you’re going to get picked for the team, because this has a direct impact on your contract situation.  There’s no sentiment in sport and if you’re not performing you could find yourself without a job”.

Although the situation is improving he says there’s a stigma attached to depression, especially amongst men. As a sufferer he’s now trying to help people overcome that stigma and he says there’s a network of groups and organisations that provide tremendous support, although someone who is clinically depressed needs medical help.

“These are tough times for people and there are a lot of suicides in Ireland.

The biggest change for me has been to stop feeling like I need to please everyone all of the time.  I make time now to do things that make me relaxed.  I ensure that I take time for myself to exercise and eat properly- I really feel that going to the gym, playing golf and even going for a walk with my iPod (something I never did before) does wonders for me, clearing and quietening my mind.

Being better organised and planning my life also helps me avoid getting overwhelmed by small tasks I have to do day-to-day.  I find that writing lists clarifies what needs to be done and as I complete each job I can cross it off, rather than putting it off and letting things get on top of me”.

He says many people lead hectic lives, rushing and racing about the place, and they need to take time to relax and look after themselves, without being selfish.

Alan says he received such wonderful support from the public as a rugby player that he sees this as a way of giving something back by supporting this campaign.

The Lean on Me roadshow, which is also visiting Wexford and Dublin, is free of charge but pre-registration is required.  Log on to www.leanonme.net for more information.