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'It's Okay To Feel Things': Derek McGrath On Why He's Walking Darkness Into Light For The First Time

Darkness Into Light takes place on May 11 at 202 locations around the world. It's an opportunity to raise essential money for Pieta House. It's also a chance to unite with friends and strangers to help win the battle against suicide. As a school teacher and a former intercounty hurling manager, Derek McGrath knows as well as anyone how important the conversation around mental health has become in Irish society, especially for young men.

McGrath is an ambassador for Electric Ireland and Pieta House for Darkness Into Light 2019 and he shared his thoughts on why he is walking Darkness Into Light for the first time this year.

Walk with us from Darkness Into Light on May 11. Register here to help raise funds for Pieta House and the vital support services they provide in the battle against suicide and self-harm.

I'm teaching 20 years. Obviously in teaching there's a whole concept of 'locus parentis' where you look out for people and their well-being. I would always consider that there's an altruistic element to teaching, that it's a vocation. 12 to 18 year-olds have been in front of me every day for the past 20 years.

We were at our son's junior infants open night in October and I was struck by the principal, who said that there were boys as young as seven or eight who presented with mental health disorders or difficulties.

From my own perspective as a Waterford manager, we had a well-publicised issue with Maurice Shanahan. Selfishly, I thought I could handle those problems myself as a teacher with no qualifications as a counsellour and no qualifications in anything other than a feeling of emotional intelligence that means you can deal with an issue.

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I tried to deal with those things selfishly with Maurice - no delegation, no handing-off of the problem - and then seeing that didn't work, Maurice linked in with Pieta House and their awareness campaigns and linked in with the coping mechanisms when someone is feeling down.

You know, that whole MacDuff feeling that you have to feel things as a man, that it's okay to feel things and it's okay to be emotive. I read a brilliant dissertation by Cliona O'Leary, who works with RTE, on mental health literacy, and the ability to say 'I can see this coming' - a mental disorder in somebody. I do firmly believe in the 'One Good Adult' theory for a coach or a manager or a teacher, where someone can open up to them much more than they would a parent or friend.

We have a duty - more than a role - to help people and pass on information and delegate and be able to say 'I can't help you but there's someone here who could help you' and I think that comes from your own heart and your own feelings and it comes from what's written about the power of hope.

I was thinking where else have I seen hope, and I thought about the Shawshank, you know where Andy Dufresne has the conversation with Red and he says to him 'Hope is a good thing, perhaps the best of things'. And I think that's key thing - that's there's always hope around the corner - and to bring it back to hurling, given the disastrous year we had last year, I was thinking Darkness Into Light, I think that's going to be like Waterford this year, I know that sounds corny!

I couldn't think of a more worthy cause to be linked to. I'm not going to be a hypocrite. I'm going to walk it this year for the first time.

Walk with us from Darkness Into Light on May 11. Register here to help raise funds for Pieta House and the vital support services they provide in the battle against suicide and self-harm.

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