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Mark O’Halloran on Lippy, male isolation, mental health and Garage

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MARK O’Halloran is an Irish scriptwriter and actor best known for his award-winning screenplays for the films Adam & Paul and Garage. A native of Ennis, County Clare, we were delighted when Mark dropped by First Fortnight HQ to discuss the theme of mental health in his work. 

Listen below and download via iTunes

Presenter: JP Swaine
Produced and edited by Steve Cummins

First Fortnight podcast #3 – Mark O’Halloran

Film and examining youth suicide with I Used To Live Here director Frank Berry

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FIRST Fortnight is delighted to unveil its second podcast of 2015 featuring filmmaker Frank Berry. Frank’s latest film, I Used To Live Here, has just been released in Irish cinemas and last year picked up the Best First Feature Award at the Galway Film Fleadh.

The film follows Amy Keane, a 13-year-old trying to cope with the death of her mother and the reappearance of her father’s ex-girlfriend, who experiences the temptation of suicide after witnessing the outpouring of love for a local suicide victim. The film takes a fictional look at how the idea of suicide can spread in communities, particularly among young people.

Listen below and download via iTunes

Presenter: JP Swaine
Produced and edited by Steve Cummins

First Fortnight podcast #2 – I Used To Live Here director Frank Berry 

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week underway

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By Fiona Smith

THIS week is Eating Disorders Awareness Week (Feb 23-March 1) and there are events happening across the country from large-scale awareness raising at the DCU Fashion Show in the Helix Theatre to small info stands and public talks at college campuses and hospitals. These are variously aimed at students, family members of sufferers, health professionals and the general public.

The main focus of the campaign is to emphasise that people can and do recover from eating disorders and there is help at hand.

The website has information and a list of resources to turn to, with advice on supporting someone going through an eating disorder and media guidelines on sensitive reporting of the issue.

They also have details on support groups and ways to donate and volunteer.


A Bipolar Odyssey (a guest post)

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OFTEN, we are asked by media organisations if we have noticed a shift in attitudes to the stigma around mental health matters since First Fortnight began in 2009. Our answer would be that, while a lot of good work has been done, the stigma around talking about mental health matters still exists. Below is a blog from a First Fortnight supporter who has asked to remain anonymous because of that stigma, particularly around psychosis. The blog fits in with an interesting piece on The Journal which states that, while a corner has begun to be turned, there is still much for us to do as a society in challenging the stigma around mental health….

A Bipolar Odyssey

FOURTEEN years ago I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after an “acute psychotic episode” whilst working abroad.

I spent six weeks in four different hospitals on two different continents with the most time spent in a regional psychiatric hospital.  The traumatic experiences in hospital require a separate account.

I was very lucky to have a family who decided not just to support me throughout this period but also, when necessary, to take matters into their own hands.

For a multitude of reasons, and against the doctors’ wishes, my parents eventually took me out of hospital and cared for me at home for several months.

I was on prescribed medication but my parents complemented that with a routine of exercise and good diet.  I also regularly went to a counsellor (who was a former psychiatrist).

I slowly began to regain confidence in myself (perhaps one of the hardest tasks after the terrifying experience of completely losing control of your thoughts) and 10 months after my episode I went back to third level to do a Masters.

I decided I would be open about my experience and would regale friends and acquaintances with stories of my delusions.  Being pregnant with the next Prophet was the story that always drew the best response!

I gradually, in a very controlled way and with advice from experts, came off all medication and over the course of the next 13 years managed my illness very successfully.

I was aware when I was feeling high or manic so I’d go for a swim, a jog or a massage.  I’d let close friends and/or partners know how I was feeling.  I was managing things so well that I forgot I had any illness and probably began to believe that it was a one-off event and that I was fine.

I forged a career for myself, got married and had children.  I ended up with a job with high responsibility and a lot of office politics.

Then suddenly, I was in a state of acute psychosis.  This time I had responsibilities, children of my own in particular.

I was fortunately in hospital for only 16 days, but I was away from my children in recovery for six weeks and was out of work for months.

Regaining one’s confidence after a psychotic episode takes time, a lot of hard work and support. However the absolute hardest part for me has been accepting that I have a mental illness.  Although I appeared on the surface to accept it, I know now I was really in denial.

Since the last episode, I’ve had random moments where I just shed a few tears accepting that I am ‘bipolar’.  Now, that I have accepted it though I can manage that aspect of my life and just get on with being who I really am, seizing the moment, stepping out of the moment when needed, reflecting, meditating, tapping into my creative side and most of all, enjoying what is a truly wonderful life!

Mental health and sport with John Kavanagh – First Fortnight podcast #1

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FIRST Fortnight is delighted to unveil its first podcast of 2015 featuring John Kavanagh, Mixed Martial Arts coach and Conor McGregor’s head coach.

John sits in with First Fortnight’s JP Swaine and guests Diarmuid Lyng, Wexford hurler, broadcaster and youth facilitator with Soar ( and Ruairí McKiernan, Irish social entrepreneur, campaigner and founder of, to discuss mental health within a sports context.

Listen below and download via iTunes

Presenter: JP Swaine
Produced and edited by Steve Cummins
Photo: Ruth Medjber

First Fortnight podcast #1 – Mental health and sport with John Kavanagh 

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