A Face in the Crowd: Breaking Mental Health Stigmas on Stage

On Tuesday October 10th, World Mental Health Day, the Discover/Recover Theatre project brought the powerful play ‘A Face in the Crowd’ to life, shedding light on the often-misunderstood world of mental illness. Crafted by the talented Niall O Muiri, the performance intricately weaves the stories of four individuals navigating the complexities of life with enduring mental health conditions.

Hosted in Visual’s George Bernard Shaw Theater, the Carlow Mental Health Association (CMHA) extended a warm invitation to all Transition Year programs in County Carlow secondary schools. Throughout the day, students were captivated by the emotional journeys depicted on stage, gaining valuable insights into the diverse experiences of those living with mental health challenges.

The visionary project received support from the Carlow County Development Partnership’s Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP). Their funding allowed CMHA to bring this impactful production directly into schools, breaking down barriers and fostering a deeper understanding of mental health issues among the younger generation.

But the commitment doesn’t end with the performance. Recognizing the importance of continued dialogue, mental health workers conducted follow-up workshops with the Transition Year programs in the following two weeks. This interactive session aimed to address any questions the students may have had, promoting open conversations and eradicating the stigma associated with mental health.

Thanks to the collaborative efforts of Discover/Recover Theatre, Niall O Muiri, CMHA, and the support of the SICAP programme, ‘A Face in the Crowd’ is more than just a play—it’s a catalyst for change. By bringing mental health discussions to the forefront of educational spaces, this project is sowing seeds of empathy, understanding, and resilience for a more compassionate future.

Conor Harris: A Journey from Darkness to Hope

In a world where stories have the power to inspire and connect, Conor Harris stands as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. Last Saturday, the Carlow Mental Health Association hosted Conor as the guest speaker at this year’s Mensana Fest. The event drew a sizable crowd, with every seat taken, eager to hear Conor’s compelling narrative.

Conor’s rise to popularity began with his appearance on RTE’s Davy’s Toughest Team, but it’s his personal journey that has truly captured the hearts of many. His story is not just a tale; it’s a raw, passionate account delivered by a man who has faced vulnerability head-on, sharing the intricacies of his life’s journey.

The narrative unfolded from Conor’s early years, navigating the challenges of growing up and dealing with family problems. However, it took a darker turn when he found solace in drugs, initially believing they were a solution to his troubles. Little did he know that this choice would lead him down a perilous path of addiction, mental illness, and financial struggles, bringing him to the brink of losing his own life.

Conor’s willingness to share his story is nothing short of bravery. His journey, though harrowing, has transformed him into a positive spokesperson today. Through grit, determination, and the support of the 12-step program, Conor has not only overcome his demons but has also found a way to share his


The event attendees were privileged to be part of this transformative moment, hanging onto every word as Conor recounted the highs and lows of his life. His story served as a powerful reminder that help is available, and recovery is possible.

In a poignant question-and-answer session that followed Conor’s talk, he demonstrated an unwavering commitment to transparency. No question was too difficult, no inquiry too challenging. Conor’s openness further endeared him to the audience, fostering an atmosphere of understanding and empathy.

Conor Harris’s journey is not just his own; it’s a beacon of hope for those who may find themselves on a similar path. His ambition is clear — to extend a helping hand to those traversing the same difficult terrain he once navigated.

As we reflect on Conor’s story, we’re reminded that amidst life’s struggles, there is always a possibility for redemption. Conor’s metamorphosis from the depths of despair to a positive force is a testament to the strength that lies within each of us. May his story continue to inspire, uplift, and foster a sense of community among those grappling with their own battles.


Catherine Callaghan’s Empowering Talk at Mensana Fest 2023

The Carlow Mental Health Association’s Mensana Fest 2023 brought together a community eager to explore practical approaches to mental well-being. Among the noteworthy speakers was Catherine Callaghan, whose Friday evening talk resonated with a fully attentive crowd. Catherine’s presentation, “Practicing the Pause for Parents, Teachers, and Caregivers,” unveiled a treasure trove of tools for building a personal Wellness Toolbox.  The insights Catherine shared to foster mindfulness and enhance mental resilience were


  1. Catherine’s first nugget of wisdom involves a fundamental shift in mindset. By changing our focus from speculative “what if” scenarios to acknowledging and addressing the reality of “what is” happening in the present moment, we pave the way for a more grounded and less anxious state of mind.


  1. In a world characterized by constant hustle, Catherine introduced the audience to the power of controlled breathing. The box breathing technique, with its rhythmic inhale, hold, exhale, and hold sequence, acts as a simple yet potent tool to calm the nervous system. It serves as a reminder that amidst life’s chaos, moments of tranquillity are just a few breaths away. Box breathing (inhale x4 hold x4 exhale x4 hold for x4)


  1. As modern life encourages multitasking, Catherine advocates for a return to mindfulness by doing one thing at a time. By immersing ourselves fully in each task, we cultivate a sense of presence and focus that can significantly reduce stress and enhance the quality of our work.


  1. The use of a sacred mantra, coupled with a tactile experience of touching each finger to the thumb, adds a spiritual dimension to Catherine’s toolkit. The repetition of the sounds SA-TA-NA-MA, synchronized with the gentle touch, provides a calming ritual that aids in centering the mind and promoting a sense of inner peace.


  1. Acknowledging the profound connection between the mind and body, Catherine shared a physical action to reset the midline. Crossing the left foot over the right, the right arm over the left, and embracing oneself is a tangible gesture that symbolizes self-care and self-love. This physical reset encourages a holistic approach to well-being.


By offering a variety of tools that span the mental, emotional, and physical dimensions, Catherine empowered her audience to create their own Wellness Toolbox. As we navigate the complexities of daily life, Catherine’s insights serve as a compass, guiding us toward a more mindful and resilient existence. The event was undoubtedly a testament to the transformative power of simple yet profound practices in nurturing our mental well-being.


“Feel the Beat, Feel the Joy: Mensana Fest 2023’s Zumba Extravaganza with Maria”

Mensana Fest 2023 hit a high note with the lively and invigorating Zumba session led by the dynamic Maria. As the clock struck 3, the venue brimmed with energy, with participants eagerly embracing the power of movement and music. The infectious smiles and positive vibes filled the air, setting the stage for an unforgettable experience.

Maria’s Zumba session showcased the incredible impact that dance and cardio can have on mental health. The rhythmic beats created an environment where participants could not only exercise their bodies but also express themselves freely. The amalgamation of dance, music, and exercise served as a potent recipe for boosting mood and happiness.

One of the remarkable aspects of the Zumba event was its ability to foster social connections. Attendees, both new and familiar faces, came together in a shared pursuit of wellness. The social dynamics of Zumba classes provide a unique opportunity to make new friends, thereby reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation. As the music played, barriers melted away, and a sense of community flourished.

In the hustle and bustle of daily life, stress and anxiety often take a toll on our mental health. Maria’s Zumba class proved to be a therapeutic escape, allowing participants to unwind, and let go of their worries. The combination of physical movement, heart-pumping cardio, and the release of endorphins created a powerful antidote to stress, leaving everyone feeling rejuvenated and lighter.

Whether you’re a seasoned fitness enthusiast or a beginner taking the first steps towards a healthier lifestyle, Zumba caters to all. Maria’s session demonstrated that Zumba can be customized to individual needs and fitness levels. It’s an inclusive activity where participants can go at their own pace, take breaks as needed, and revel in the joy of movement, regardless of their dancing background.

The festivities didn’t stop within the confines of the venue. After the 3 o’clock session, Maria took the Zumba celebration to the streets, specifically Potato Market. Passersby were not just spectators; they were invited to join in and experience the joy firsthand. The pulsating music lured people in, and soon, a spontaneous crowd gathered, transforming the street into a dance floor. This impromptu street Zumba became a Feel Good Friday moment, leaving everyone with smiles and positive energy.

Mensana Fest 2023’s Zumba with Maria was more than just a fitness event; it was a celebration of mental and physical well-being. The power of music, movement, and social connection created an atmosphere where stress melted away, and happiness took center stage. As the sun set on this vibrant day, the echoes of laughter and the rhythm of Zumba lingered, leaving an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of all who attended.  Carlow Mental Health association would like to thank Maria for the impact that this event had on those in attendance.


Carlow Mental Health Association Volunteers Shine at Positive Aging Expo

In a vibrant display of community engagement and commitment to mental health, volunteers from the Carlow Mental Health Association illuminated the Positive Aging Expo at Carlow’s Fairgreen on Friday. Cloaked in distinctive bright yellow, they became beacons of hope and information, dedicating their time from 10 am to 3 pm to disseminate crucial details about mental health services, upcoming events, and the much-anticipated Mensana Fest.

Dressed in eye-catching yellow, the volunteers from the Carlow Mental Health Association stood out amid the hustle and bustle of the Positive Aging Expo. Their vibrant presence was a symbol of the positivity and vitality they aim to bring to the community, breaking down barriers and fostering open conversations about mental health.

Throughout the event, the volunteers actively engaged with attendees, offering valuable information about the upcoming Mensana Fest. This weekends festival promises a diverse range of events aimed at promoting mental well-being and resilience. Mensana Fest is set to be a celebration of mental health awareness..

Beyond promoting their own events, the volunteers played a crucial role in signposting information about both local and national mental health services. By providing accessible and relevant information, they aimed to empower individuals with the knowledge they need to seek help and support when it comes to mental health concerns.

The bright yellow presence of the volunteers served as a visual representation of the commitment of the Carlow Mental Health Association to promote positive aging and mental well-being. By being visible and approachable, they effectively conveyed the message that mental health is a shared concern within the community, and seeking support is a sign of strength.

The involvement of Carlow Mental Health Association volunteers in the Positive Aging Expo was a testament to their dedication to fostering a mentally healthy community. By standing out in bright yellow and actively engaging with attendees, they not only promoted upcoming events like Mensana Fest but also played a pivotal role in providing valuable information about mental health services. Their efforts contribute significantly to breaking down the barriers associated with mental health discussions and creating an environment where everyone feels supported and understood. In the vibrant spirit of positivity and community connection, the Carlow Mental Health Association continues to be a beacon of hope for mental well-being in the region.

A Night of Inspiration at Mensana Fest 2023 with Hurling Legend Davy Fitzgerald

Thursday night marked the grand opening of this year’s Mensana Fest, a heartwarming initiative by the Carlow Mental Health Association. The event, hosted at the elegant Woodford Dolmen Hotel, came alive with the presence of none other than Davy Fitzgerald. Renowned as an Irish hurling manager and former all-star player, Fitzgerald has transcended the boundaries of the sports arena to become a beloved RTE television personality, recognized for his roles on “Ireland’s Fittest Family” and “Davy’s Toughest Team.”


Hosted on the night by Peter McConnon, Carlow GAA’s Head of Operations, Davy,the charismatic Clare man took center stage at Mensana Fest, captivating the audience with his insights into mental health. While his prowess on the hurling field is well-documented, Fitzgerald delved into the equally crucial realm of mental well-being, emphasizing its profound impact on both teams and individuals.

During the evening, Davy Fitzgerald offered a rare and candid glimpse into his own mental health journey. The crowd at Woodford Dolmen Hotel hung on to every word as he shared personal anecdotes, highlighting the importance of prioritizing mental health in all aspects of life.



Drawing parallels between the dynamics of sports teams and the challenges faced by individuals, Fitzgerald underscored the integral role mental health plays in fostering a resilient and successful team. His experiences as a manager and player were woven into a narrative that celebrated the power of camaraderie and emotional well-being.

In his address, Davy didn’t just talk about the challenges; he offered a message of hope and resilience. Through his own journey, he illustrated that even in the most competitive and demanding environments, prioritizing mental health is not a sign of weakness but a testament to strength and wisdom.

The Carlow Mental Health Association’s Mensana Fest has proven once again to be a vital platform for mental health advocacy. By bringing together influential personalities like Davy Fitzgerald, the festival not only raises awareness but also fosters a sense of community and support.

Thursday night’s event with Davy Fitzgerald at Mensana Fest was not just about hurling; it was a celebration of resilience, community, and the importance of nurturing our mental well-being. As the festival unfolds, it promises to be a source of inspiration and education, leaving an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of all who attended. Davy Fitzgerald’s openness and sincerity have undoubtedly added a new dimension to the conversation around mental health, making Mensana Fest a beacon of hope for all.


Our Chairperson Rita Kelly had a short interview that we recorded for those that did not get to attend the event on Thursday evening.


An Interview with Davy Fitzgerald

Last Night Carlow Mental Health Association Chairperson Rita Kelly had the opportunity to sitdown with Hurling Player / Manager, TV personality Davy Fitzgerald.  Please find below the interview as Rita asks about how Davy has dealt with his own Mental Health.