‘Connections’ are the key to mental health during lockdown-McLaughlin

ULSTER GAA vice-chairman, Ciaran McLaughlin, believes maintaining connections is key to ensuring good mental health and club bonds during lockdown.
The Strabane Sigersons stalwart was National Chairperson of the Health and Wellbeing Committee and established a Health and Wellbeing officer role into every GAA club following his motion to Tyrone County Convention back in 2012.
At present, the GAA is taking a lead role, working alongside statutory agencies, to ensure their members’ physical and emotional wellbeing needs are being met through a variety of methods.
While the current situation is new to everyone, Mr McLaughlin believes it is most difficult for the very young and the elderly, who are the most likely to isolated and disconnected from their normal lives.
And because of that, he is particularly pleased with the way GAA clubs are reaching out to those in need during this time.
“At a local level clubs are doing various things – there’s Zoom meetings going on, there’s training sessions, skills challenges, Tik Tok, all things that ensure children aren’t isolated from their friends,” he explained.
“It’s about making sure they get contact with others, which they need to have because a lot of these kids are in their formative years, particularly the very young children, those at Key Stage 1, Primary 1 and Primary 2, who would have been at games for the first time because all of a sudden they have no friends, they have left school, they have no school friendships, so it’s trying to ensure that any relationships you can build – baring in mind social distancing – are in the best advantage of the child.”
And while that is relatively easy to achieve in this digital age, it’s less so for the over-70s, who Mr McLaughlin realises need a little assistance in that area.
“It’s difficult when you get older but for the younger children, it’s the same problem as being faced by your over 70s,” he acknowledged.
“They’re isolated, they are cocooned and what’s actually being done at the minute is what can be done to provide them with digital equipment and digital literacy skills to enable them to stay in touch.”

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