Limerick man advocates for reduced phone usage and more conversation for mental health

Men. Like to convey the image they’re tough guys. But one sporty Mid West native is suggesting boys need to talk to each other more.

Peadar Collins (23), from South Circular Road in Limerick city, is the man behind the movement that had rugby players and fanatics put down their phones and return to the art of real-life talking.

Peadar is a recent graduate from the University of Limerick with a Degree in Business Studies. He is also an avid sports player having played previously with the Munster Rugby Academy and Irish 20s, currently playing with Garryowen RFC and has just recently begun his venture teaching Pilates.

Oh..he’s also a big fan of the board game 30 Seconds and cooking, gracing us with his top tip “I made Paella there last week. Everyone thinks you know, it’s fish, but you could put in chicken as well.”

The Speakfor15 campaign founded by the Limerick man worked in collaboration with Pieta House, a mental health organisation that specialises in the prevention of self-harm and suicide in Ireland. The concept behind the campaign aimed to encourage people to put down their phones during the 15-minute half time break of matches throughout the Rugby World Cup. He hoped it “would encourage face to face conversation”, something Peadar felt that “we’re losing in society these days.”

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When you wake up and immediately check your phone, you’re being bombarded with new messages, emails, to-dos, and other stimuli that often creates a feeling of anxiety.⁣ Immediately, external stimuli are pulling for your attention, giving you no time and space to start your day calmly.⁣ ⁣ By starting the day distracted, you set the tone for a distracted day. ⁣ ⁣ 𝘔𝘰𝘴𝘵 𝘱𝘦𝘰𝘱𝘭𝘦 𝘢𝘴𝘴𝘶𝘮𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘺 𝘤𝘢𝘯 𝘴𝘮𝘰𝘰𝘵𝘩𝘭𝘺 𝘨𝘰 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘥𝘪𝘴𝘵𝘳𝘢𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘵𝘰 𝘪𝘯𝘵𝘦𝘯𝘴𝘦 𝘧𝘰𝘤𝘶𝘴, 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵’𝘴 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘤𝘢𝘴𝘦. ⁣ ⁣ Throughout the day, we get distracted much quicker and mess up our productivity by checking our smartphone first thing in the morning.⁣ ⁣ Try test yourself over the next few mornings to switch off your alarm and set it aside. Head downstairs for brekkie and set out your tasks for the day, you’ll feel much better and more in tune, you can trust me on that one.

A post shared by Peadar Collins (@speakfor15) on

Peadar explained the benefits of talking with someone, suggesting it gives an opportunity to share your vulnerabilities and detect others:

“The more you speak to someone there’s a chance where you could open up and it stimulates vulnerability. You might spot the signs more if someone’s feeling a bit down because it’s very hard to do when you’re just chatting to them over Snapchat or Instagram,” he said.

The campaign has proven extremely successful with over six grand raised in just half a year. Support was received internationally from rugby player in the UK, New Zealand and Australia along with shout-outs from celebs including Jamie Redknapp, Jordan Larmar, Pádraig Harrington, Kevin Kilbane, Laura Wright, Sene Naoupu and the All Blacks flanker Ardie Savea.

Sport for Mental health

The Garryowen rugby player has also enjoyed the benefits from playing sports both physically and mentally, admitting “it has played a significant role in my life.” Peadar spoke about the connections and friendships that being a part of a team has provided him. He also thanked rugby and the dedication it required for much of his motivation outside of sports,

“When I was in the Munster Academy I would be getting up at half six or seven, three or four days a week, with a game at the weekends. Balancing college on top of that. And, you know, you say to yourself, if I could cope with that dedication, I could cope with anything.”

The campaigner spoke about the sort of stigma that can be placed on sports players like rugby, which can be viewed as a very ‘masculine’ game. He felt that this prevented players from opening up about emotions in an attempt to maintain the ‘manly’ perception of the game. This made the half-time set up for Speakfor15 ideal.

As he relied heavily on sports and exercise to maintain positive mental health, Peadar felt the impact on his mental wellbeing when his outlet was stripped away from him. Having suffered from an ACL ( anterior cruciate ligament) injury, the UL graduate was forced to withdraw from all sports for an entire year.

The adjustment from busy training schedules to sudden time-off is an aspect of sports often forgotten. This was a transition period Peadar found difficult. However, due to the bonds he had already created with his team-mates, he was continuously supported throughout his injury. The power of being part of a team and having that dependency was a huge part of why the Limerick man believed sports had a positive impact on mental health.

“I love getting out and doing stuff every day but you know, suddenly I couldn’t do anything. And so I definitely felt down for a few weeks but, you know, to speak up to my parent’s and friends kept me going. My teammates as well. And my rugby team. So that’s another positive side effects of sport.”

Social Media and Mental Health

The Limerick man is a huge advocate of ‘social media detoxing’, admitting he practised it daily- ensuring he set aside times during the days for phone-free fun. He looked at social media as one of the leading causes of poor mental health and included the reduction of phone usage in his campaign.

“Social media and mental health, there’s a huge correlation. Reducing phone usage and speaking up about our mental health are the two of success indicators for my campaign.”

When we bombard ourselves with social media content first thing in the morning, subconsciously we’re immediately setting up our days for distractions, explained the mental health guru. He added that he has since done a clear-out of profiles he followed that were not contributing to his mental health.

“It simulates anxiety when your phone’s always going off and you have that constant need to grab it every time and that adds to your stress. And the second main thing I think about social media mental health is comparing yourself to others. I’ve actually unfollowed so many celebrities or fitness bloggers. I only follow a few who I think send out good content and information. But I’ve blocked out like 80% of people because I just felt like I was comparing myself to others too much.”

Peadar went on to quote Theodore Roosevelt:

Comparison is the thief of joy

Theodore Roosevelt

Adding to the quote, Mr Collins said, “And that is so true. Because if you’re always comparing yourself to others how will you find self-fulfilment? If you’re always comparing yourself to others, how will you be happy with yourself? That’s the main thing.”

Peadar spoke about the use of social media from another perspective, little mentioned. How when meeting up with a friend and they spend more time on their phone than in conversation with you, and how insulting it can feel.

“I’m not against social media, but there’s a time and place for it. Especially when you’re with friends. If you text someone, ‘look, Jim, I would go for a cheeky mocha, I’d love to catch up, I haven’t seen you for a while. I knew you were travelling somewhere’ and you meet up with him and he just goes on his phone. It’s a real slap in the face Jim that you just go on your phone because subconsciously you’re telling me ‘I have better things on my mind than talking to you Peadar.”

The Speakfor15 campaigner shared one of his favourite tips for reducing your social media usage: Change your phone screen to greyscale. This Peadar suggest makes the social media experience far less enjoyable, in turn reducing its usage.

Advice from Peadar:

We wanted to find out what motivated this young mental health advocate and get some tips for future leaders, here’s what he said:

  • If you want to succeed, you have to put yourself out there
  • Get out and meet people
  • Ironically, build your online presence (but in a healthy and mindful way)
  • Disregard unhelpful and negative comments from people
  • Do what you have to do

So whats the future for Speakfor15 and the Limerick man?

Peadar hopes to continue on his path towards helping others which he hopes to be successful at in his new role as Student Welfare Officer for the University of Limerick. He also hopes to continue growing the Speakfor15 platform and provide people with a space for positive mental health content.

For more advice and information on mental health and social media check out our earlier piece with CEO of The Shona Project Tammy Darcy Click Here

To help Peadar continue to support Pieta House Click Here