Former Dublin football star calls on men to support friends this Christmas

A former GAA star is urging men to ask friends ‘the second question’ this Christmas and show their support for someone who might be having a tough time. Ex Dublin footballer Kevin McManamon, who is now a sports psychology consultant, says that people need to have the support skills to help others around them.

“There’s no guidebook on how to cope in a difficult situation, but it’s the environment we’re in, whether it’s in the workplace or with a group of friends, we might not have the support skills to help someone who is struggling. Skills in being a good mate too are hugely important.”

Kevin, who works with lots of high-performance sportspeople, says that identifying a problem in a friend or colleague and not being afraid to start the conversation is a vital life skill for everyone, whether male or female, and that second question can make all the difference: “Sometimes, someone can be going through something really tough and by not asking what’s wrong you make it that it’s the norm that we don’t talk about our challenges. But maybe if you ask someone if everything is ok, they’ll be very thankful for you opening that door and creating a safe space to talk. It’s also important that if someone says, ‘I’m grand’ or ‘all’s good’ that you ask a second question to help bring them out of themselves.”

Kevin McManamon

Kevin hopes that highlighting the importance of this practice will help other men to know that it’s ok to talk to others about their challenges or anxieties. Speaking to Dr Laura Linehan during an Instagram Live for CarePlus Pharmacy, Kevin said that when he was growing up there were unwritten rules around how men should behave but that society is changing: “Culturally it’s maybe easier for women to talk but we all have challenges and a lot of the time when we go into a hole, mentally, it’s the perspective of someone else that can really help get us out of it. It’s about being aware of what’s stopping you from telling the story and for a lot of men it’s because they are not supposed to show emotion or shed a tear or seek help for a problem. But it shouldn’t be like that.”

Christmas can be one of the most difficult and lonely times of the year for many people and Kevin believes that resilience is key in order to get through these difficult times.

“It’s not about being strong, it’s about being resilient. It’s not about fixing things on your own. It’s about asking your crew questions like ‘have you ever dealt with something like this before’ and ‘what would you do in a situation like this’. I have seen the benefits of having these honest and courageous conversations. I’ve seen it work.”

Speaking about building up resilience, Kevin believes that we’re failing as a society by not giving people the tools they need to deal with challenging situations. He agrees that people learn how strong they are when faced with various challenges, but he says it’s important to have the skills to deal with these challenges before they happen.

He told Dr Laura during the interview, which is now available to view on the CarePlus Pharmacy’s Instagram, that he learned a lot about himself, the causes of pressure and anxiety and how he can support himself in a Life Skills programme run by Aware several years ago. He uses these learnings in his own coaching sessions with clients.

His interest in wellbeing and mindset comes from his days of playing inter-county football and performing at the highest level of the game.

“When I went to inter-county, I initially found it very difficult but I was willing to do whatever it took to get to the top. I learned a lot about dealing with anxiety and stress. It’s gas because I’m a very confident fella in general but when it came to the thing I was deadly at, I was probably lacking in the real peak of the pyramid stuff. Learning about how to deal with the pressure really helped me in all areas of my life.”

Kevin is hoping that by speaking out he will encourage other men to talk about their emotions but he’s also hoping it will encourage men to check in on their friends and make sure they’re doing ok. He’s also encouraging people to listen properly to someone when they’re talking about their feelings. He said a lot of men, by nature, can be fixers instead of listeners but he says it’s important to really listen to what the other person is saying.

The Instagram Live with Kevin is part of a CarePlus Pharmacy campaign to promote awareness of mental and physical health among men. You can check out the details on the pharmacy’s Instagram page @CarePlusPharmacy as well as Kevin’s own Instagram @KevMc15.

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