'I thought people would look down on me if I spoke about it' – Kodaline's Steve Garrigan on managing mental health

Kodaline frontman Steve Garrigan is urging people to be open about their mental health issues after he spent years suffering in silence from panic attacks.

Garrigan (31) said he knows how to manage his own anxiety and is able to recognise the triggers so he knows when he needs to take a step back.

“I had a lot of issues with panic attacks from about 18 up to about 23,” he said. ”I knew it was anxiety and it was affecting me on a day-to-day level. I kept quiet because I thought if I spoke about it, people would look down on me, which just isn’t true.

“Then when I started talking about it, I managed to deal with it and get a handle on it.

“There’s so many places you can turn to, like Walk In My Shoes, who have an amazing team of people and services.”

Performing and writing music has always been cathartic for Garrigan and gives him a “total escape”.

“That’s always been my safe place,” he said. “Our song High Hopes was based on my own experience with anxiety. There’s a verse in it about being in a really dark place, but the chorus is about high hopes. That song has always helped me.”

He also recommends talking to friends and family as well as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

“It’s also meditation and exercise, all the obvious things that I was aware of but I never actually did them,” he said.

“Then I was like, holy s**t, why didn’t I do them years ago?”

Spending too much time on social media is known to be bad for people’s mental health, and Garrigan said most of the imagery “isn’t based on real life”.

He believes that keeping to a healthy routine is also vital for his well-being.

“I have a routine on tour and it’s important to set boundaries as well. If you’re not up to doing something, don’t be afraid to just say ‘no’,” he said.

He admitted he has cut back hugely on alcohol, and his attitude now is a far cry from his early days as a rising star on the music circuit when the band regularly indulged in sessions.

“I do drink. I have the occasional pint or big night out, but it’s nothing like when I first started touring when it was constant sessions all the time,” he said.

“It’s more important to look after yourself. If you’re in any way susceptible to anxiety or depression, I would strongly recommend cutting back for a while.

”It might feel like a few drinks is helping you in the short term, but in the long term it will only make you feel worse.”

Garrigan has joined forces with Walk In My Shoes, which is run by St Patrick’s mental health services, to raise awareness of anxiety and depression.

He will front a slot for the campaign’s radio station when it goes live from next Tuesday.

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