The GAA and the HSE are working in partnership to bring the messages of protection, resilience and support for mental wellness to local communities.

Both organisations are keen to increase their efforts to normalise the conversation around mental health. In this regard the GAA has selected the 2016 GAA Health & Wellbeing Theme Day, this year’s second All Ireland Football semi-final taking place in Croke Park on August 28th, as another way to promote the HSE #littlethings using the strap line “Little Things can improve your game”.

The #littlethings campaign highlights that we all experience difficult times in our lives, and that when we do, there are some evidence-based little things that can make a big difference to how we feel.

Partnering with the GAA for their theme day provides a highly visible and exciting way to encourage and normalise discussion around mental health and fitness. By placing that discussion in a familiar sporting environment the aim is that people will be more receptive to the messages and stories about mental health. Building personal as well as community resilience and empowering people to reach out for support when needed is an important protective factor for mental health.

Little Things launch - GAA players

Particular #littlethings messages have been selected for the All Ireland semi-final that have the most connection and relevance to the GAA sporting community such as: keeping active, eating well and there’s strength in numbers.  (‘Ní neart go cur le chéile’ is the GAA motto). These messages will be used in the different awareness raising activities to support the partnership including: videos of GAA ambassadors sharing what #littlethings work for them, media buying and social media campaign to support the day, and specially designed posters for display around Croke Park.

Special guest MC Síle Seoige will be conducting pitch side interviews on match day where people share their #littlethings while relevant #littlethings messaging will appear all match tickets, on the big screens, and in editorial in match programmes. Following on from the day the GAA and HSE will work together to bring the #littlethings campaign to every club in the country through the Association’s growing health and wellbeing structures at club and county level.

Speaking at the launch of the GAA Health and Wellbeing Day, Uachtarán Cumann Luthchleas Gael, Aogán Ó Fearghail, said: “As Ireland’s largest sporting and community organisation the GAA has always played a role in promoting health and wellbeing amongst its members and players. We have a duty of care to our members and we want to provide them with practical support to help them to be better able to look after their mental health. I welcome the continuing partnership between the GAA and the HSE in promoting health and wellbeing among our members. There is strength in numbers and together we can reach more people to change attitudes and behaviour towards mental health”.

Launching the partnership in Croke Park today, Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People Helen McEntee said: “Every week on average 10 people die by suicide. While there are varying factors that contribute to it we know that the earlier someone gets the appropriate support and help, the less likely they are to experience extreme distress. Prevention and resilience building is what is most effective. There are things, that we know from evidence, that you can do for yourself and others to protect your mental health. What’s happening here today and what will happen on August 28th is a perfect example of how a partnership between the HSE and the GAA can open up the discussion around mental health in Ireland.

Ms Anne O’Connor, HSE National Director, Mental Health Division said, “One of our priorities in the HSE Mental Health Division is to promote positive mental health and to reduce self harm and the loss of life. The #littlethings campaign aims to change attitudes and behaviour with regard to mental health by using evidence-based and practical support to help people to be better able to look after their own mental health. I want to thank the GAA for working with us to help spread this important message - ‘Little Things can improve your game’- to players, families, supporters and local communities throughout the country”.

GAA Little Things Ambassador and Cavan footballer Alan O’Mara said, “Growing up, the one statistic that always stuck with me was that one out of four people have depression. I never thought I would be that person but I was wrong. I wish the ‘Little Things’ campaign was around back then because it recognises that we all have mental health and highlights positive ways we can manage our wellbeing and look out for others”.

Little Things launch - GAA group

Little Things is the integrated positive mental health campaign brought to you by the HSE’s Mental Health Division and a wide range of over 30 partners, including the GAA. It shares some evidence-based, simple and powerful day-to-day steps – little things that we can all do to protect our own mental health, and support the wellbeing of the people we care about.

People are encouraged to eat and sleep well, take regular exercise, talk about their problems, drinking less alcohol and staying in touch and spending time with other people – all proven to promote positive mental health. The campaign brings people to the mental health one stop shop, yourmentalhealth.ie for more information, and the Samaritans’ 116123 national free to call number for extra support. Samaritans is the GAA’s official mental health partner since 2014.