PAUL Oâ€™Connell took time out from his busy training schedule last week to mentor several groups of kids taking part in the Think Big programme, which promotes the importance of mental health.
Backed by O2 and Headstrong, the National Centre for Youth Mental Health, Think Big works with young people aged 14-25 to create projects in their community that promote positive mental health.
Oâ€™Connell told the Limerick Leader that the programme had been a big success so far.
â€œI am here tonight to meet some of the groups that are involved in projects that they started and there are a couple in Limerick,â€ he explained.
The towering second row said that the issue of mental health was a â€œvital oneâ€, particularly brought to light in recent days by the suicide of soccer manager Gary Speed in the UK.
â€œObviously Gary Speedâ€™s death is really tragic and my thoughts would go out to his family, but any tragedy like this - and we unfortunately all know people who have been affected by suicide - shows the importance of positive mental health, which is a big part of what the Think Big project is, highlighting mental health and getting people to get up and do something positive in their community,â€ he said.
â€œIt is all about getting the right message across and letting people realise that there are so many resources out there for them to make use of when they are struggling. This project highlights the different resources that are out there for people.â€
The mentoring programme took place in O2â€™s offices in Castletroy and Paul offered advice on teamwork and motivation to a number of groups of young people, including the Kingâ€™s Island Drop In service, led by Elaine Flynn, who plans to create a drop in cafe for young people with Limerick Youth Service. Another project, called Footsy Friday, was driven by Jonathon Collins from Garryowen and the Youth Service, who organised a one-off astroturf soccer tournament in November for under 15s five-a-side teams from all over the city.
Limerick Youth Service are currently working with local groups to submit more Think Big projects next year.