Brent Pope has given a heartfelt interview on RTÉ Radio 1's Brendan O'Connor Show about loneliness and anxiety in the wake of the Covid-19 emergency, telling listeners: "You're not alone."
The rugby analyst and author said he had taken a "close look at my life introspectively over Covid", and the fact that he is so far away from his mother and brother, who live in New Zealand.
"What made me reflect is I've been over here in Ireland for 30 years, and yes, that's been my choice," he explained. "And, you know, I love Ireland. I love [Irish] society. I'm well 'got' here, I like to think.
"But certain times in your life come and [you] think... I didn't really get to enjoy my own family for the last 25 years, in some regards, nor did they get to enjoy mine. Yes, they could pick up videos, you know, or whatever of stuff I was doing on TV over here. Or yes, I could go back every year and see them. But being in another country you do miss that - not having my own family over here, not having my own sort of network... I really envy the situations where people can turn to family because I can't so easily."
Brent Pope seems like such a lovely man. Really powerful interview about mental health on @RadioBrendanRTE— Lauren Murphy (@laurenmurphy_) July 18, 2020
Pope said people have "got to go to work now more than ever on your mental health and put some positivity back into your life, whatever that takes".
"You just talked about trauma in our lives," he continued. "It's coming - to all of us. Whether that's the loss of a loved one, whether that's the break-up of a marriage, especially now [with] Covid. I mean, look at the calls that are going in [to helplines] because the whole anxiety has changed and we're plunged now - you just said in those headlines - we are plunged now back into that anxiety again.
"Just when people thought they were going back to a job or to a new job or a new normality - suddenly it's taken away from them. This is going to cause huge problems for people along the way.
"There's people out there who are using it positively and saying, 'It's a change in my life. It's a reinvention. Great'. There's other people there that are saying, 'How can I put food on the table for my kids?' You know? 'What am I going to do now?' And unless you have the tools and unless you're ready to put that to work and say, 'Look, ok, I've got to look after my mental health...'
"All I'm doing here at any time that I talk is just [to] say, 'Please, don't feel alone', because there's so many people going through whatever."
"Look, everybody has things in their life going on at any one moment," Pope offered. "Everybody. There's no one escapes that. And just to say, 'You're not alone'. Like, there's just somebody come [texted] in with the same issues that I've had around, you know, maybe being childless, marriage-less or something like that. I'm sure there's thousands of people out there that look back on that too with regret and those sorts of things, you know?
"Reach out to someone. If it's a sibling, if it's someone you just can talk to and say, 'Hey, I'm worried about this'. Because nine times out of ten you'll get that person say, 'Hey, I'm feeling the same way. I'm feeling alone. I'm feeling scared. I'm feeling all these things'."
"Everyone else doesn't have it sorted, no matter what you think," said O'Connor.
"No, you think people have it sorted," Pope agreed. "And that's what you said before, going back to Covid: now that everybody's in a cause that they know everybody doesn't have it sorted - that nobody has it sorted - they feel ok, they feel somewhat inspired. Until the next anxiety comes and they say, 'Oh my God, now I've got to go back to work! What's that going to look like for me?' So, anxieties have changed. But please: seek help and talk to someone."
If you have been affected by issues raised in this article, please visit about.rte.ie/helplines.