Written by Stephanie Hannelly, Ciarán Roddy and Tomás Skelly
At 1:45am on October 16th, 2005, 17 year old Shane Mullins left the local pub in Abbeyknockmoy, Co. Galway with one of his friends. They had both been drinking since 7 o’clock the previous evening. Shane reached for the keys of the car, climbed into the drivers seat and set off towards home. He lost control of the car not too far from the pub. When he hit a ditch and rolled into a field, Shane’s head came into contact with a concrete pillar. His friend climbed unharmed from the wreckage to raise the alarm about Shane. Shane then fell into a coma for four days.
Rushed to hospital in Galway, Shane’s friends and family were told to prepare for the worst. The family were asked if they would donate his organs.
“Thankfully, they didn’t. My organs have come in handy over the last few years!” says Shane.
He spent three torturous months in hospital and three more in the National Rehabilitation Centre. He is now blind in one eye, has limited coordination, reduced balance and suffers from many of the cognitive impairments that go with brain injury. Despite all of these obstacles, nowadays Shane is up and down the countryside talking to schools, youth clubs and colleges about his experiences after the accident.
Shane has developed a self-help programme called D’MESS which is designed to help young people face and fight their own demons. He uses his accident to positively promote mental health by inspiring thousands of young people. Each letter stands for a word. Determination. Motivation. Emotion. Support. Social life. During his talks, he discusses each theme in turn, explaining how he used this system to bring himself back from depression and alcohol dependency.
D’MESS all started with a simple idea he had. He wanted to share how he coped with his own mental health struggles. He ran into a teacher in college who helped him set up a PowerPoint presentation. He started doing talks in Galway Technical Institute and then went on to set up the D’MESS organisation to positively peer influence the young people of Ireland into looking after theirr mental health.
When we asked him “What is your message to young people & what do you recommend young people should do to help their mental health?” He said “Do things for yourself & take everything on board, look at all the different ways to suit you that will help you with your mental health. Everyone is different and no one knows you like you know yourself”. He also said “ I don’t tell you guys what to do, I tell ye my story. My story of my path to recovery which is proven to work. I mean, look at me!
He put a lot of emphasis on the fact that we need to talk about our feelings, talk to anyone. “You may not feel better the first time but if you stick with it you're on track to having a good healthy mind”.
Shane has a lot of really amazing quotes that he uses in his speeches, one of which is “Talk about everything, don’t hold anything in. Anything you hold in will hold you back in the future”. He also said “Believe in yourselves young people, you don’t understand the power and capability you have. Get up, look up and never ever give up!”
We also asked “What drives you to keep going?” He said he had to face the fact that he had a brain injury & that he has cognitive difficulties. “I am going to beat the mind!” says Shane. “I want to challenge myself every step I take, like promoting D’MESS and using my life to positively influence you guys to look after yourselves. I am beating the odds!”
Shane believes that his humour also carried him through all of his tough times, due to his ability to "laugh everything off”. Shane is glad to be the person he has become but he would never want to go through it again. “Some people lie down and take it but I bounce back every time and that’s what keeps me going”. Telling young people his story gives him a mental boost. “I will never give up I will prove all the doctors wrong!”. Shane says he is continuing to grow as a person and it’s all because of D’MESS.
From listening to his speech we were absolutely captivated. Every school, youth club, college, Foróige Club etc, should get Shane in for a talk - especially with the rate of suicide and bullying among young people in our country. To finish things off, we asked him “What’s the plan for the future?”. “I would love to become a comedian one day!” says Shane. We think this would really suit him because he is hilarious!
You can find out more about D'Mess at www.dmess.org