Alan Quinlan: Young people on social media are "suffering in silence... it's very, very dangerous"
Quinlan has made a documentary on mental health which he hopes will make people realise "there is light at the end of the tunnel”.
Alan Quinlan, the former Irish rugby international who also made over 200 appearances for Munster Rugby, will discuss his own personal struggles with his mental health in a documentary on Virgin Media One tonight (10 October).
Speaking to JOE about the documentary, which will air on World Mental Health Day, Quinlan says he made it because he "wanted to highlight the issue of mental health and the importance of talking to people when you need to”.
“I have a natural anxiety that kind of makes me hyper vigilant and over analyse things,” he says.
In the documentary, Quinlan speaks to various sports stars and influencers about mental health, including Stuart Lancaster, Kevin Doyle, Roz Purcell and Galway hurler Conor Whelan, who discusses the tragic loss of his cousin Niall Donohue, which rocked the GAA community in Galway and beyond.
On the topic of the impact of social media on the mental health of young people, which is also addressed in the documentary, Quinlan says he believes that despite it being a useful tool, social media can also have a negative impact on young people in particular.
"People are fearful about judgement in a negative way and are suffering in silence with the constant negative comments on social media,” he says.
“All the comments makes people block out anything positive that’s trying to go through. It’s very, very dangerous.”
On that topic, Quinlan notes how it is particularly prevalent in the sporting arena.
“It can have a very negative effect on people. We talk in the documentary about sport, about how if someone has a bad game they turn on their phone after a match and there’s people vilifying them straight away.”
A fierce warrior on the pitch in the red of Munster and green of Ireland, Quinlan struggled with his mental health throughout his career.
In terms of a coping strategy, what has worked for him is talking to people and having structure in his life.
“Certain people can help control their nerves through meditation, exercise, making time for themselves and there’s a process there of trying to deal as best you can and have a plan and a structure, which helps alleviate the nerves, the same with sharing them with someone,” he says.
Sport for Quinlan, has always been an escape.
“I never felt depressed or sad while I was out on a rugby field.”
The documentary will also address the issue of suicide in Ireland and Quinlan said he is hopeful that it will help people who feel at their lowest.
“It’s so important to remember there are so many people throughout our country who have been impacted by suicide and have pain to carry around for the rest of their lives,” he says.
“It (the documentary) will hopefully make people who are feeling that way take a step back and realise there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
Breakdown: Ireland’s Mental Health Battle airs tonight, 10 October at 9pm on Virgin Media One.