Your head in the right space

Mary Keating, South Dublin/South Leinster branch

LAST YEAR IMPACT’s Education division produced Head Space – Minding your Mental Health; a booklet for young people and their families. The original idea came from Kinsale Youth Support Service who happily agreed to allow IMPACT to reproduce it, following a suggestion from some IMPACT members. One of those was SNA South Dublin/South Leinster branch member Mary Keating.

Tell me about yourself?

I’m a special needs assistant (SNA) working in Cabinteely Community School, a second level school based in South County Dublin. I have two great grown-up children.

Where did you spend your childhood?

I grew up in Nurney, County Kildare. I like to get back there as often as I can. I remember living in the country and using flash lights when we went out at night, as there were no street lights.

What are your interests?

My main interest is hill walking and during the summer, taking long distance walking along the canals across the country. I also love set dancing, Gaelic football and gardening.

What’s it like working in education today?

It can be very challenging as there is a great need for extra resources. There’s lots of demand for more SNAs, especially in DEIS schools in disadvantaged areas.

Why do you think the Head Space booklet is so important?

Any resource that provides vital information for young people and their families, in relation to maintaining good mental health, is important. The Head Space booklet is particularly good as it’s so easy to read. It gives an outline of the many difficulties encountered by young people, with contact details of the services available.

Tell me about your involvement in IMPACT

I became involved in IMPACT around 2004 when I attended an information meeting in Nerney’s Court. I was interested in finding out more. I joined the South Dublin SNA branch soon after. I became secretary of the branch a few years later. When we amalgamated into The South Dublin/South Leinster branch, in 2012, I took up the position of secretary of the new branch. In October this year I became chairperson and I have just joined IMPACT’s Education Divisional Executive Committee (DEC).

What’s the best thing about being involved in the union?

I’ve met some great people and made many friends in IMPACT. The branch has really progressed and the work that is done serves the needs of members. We wanted to give something back to our members and we recognised the need for career development training for SNAs. There are very few places to go, to get in-service training, that don’t cost a fortune. It’s like a runaway train now, the demand is so high.

It’s important to be aware of our entitlements, and to have somewhere to go for information. If a member rings, to sort them out, and if not we know we have somewhere else to get the information they need.

Why be active in a union?

It is important to be involved, without trade unions we wouldn’t have the conditions we have now, particularly SNAs, but this is true of a lot of workplaces.

What do you do to relax?

Listen to music or the radio.

What are the small things that make you happy?

Meeting friends, going to a concert or a céilí.

What makes you laugh out loud?

Father Ted or Mrs Browns Boys. X

What would your ideal holiday involve?

To head off with my hiking boots. It doesn’t matter where as long as there are hills, good company and warm weather. Some of the best holidays I’ve had are when I have gone away on my own and met people of all ages from different countries doing the same. When you get out of the tourist areas you get to see the real country, get great food, and see things you would never see on a package holiday. If I don’t get to do that it’s the Willie Clancy Festival week in Miltown Malbay Co. Clare, on the first week in July every year for set dancing

What music are you into?

I could listen to almost any type of music from pop to opera, jazz or Irish traditional. It depends on what I am doing at the time. It’s rock music for housework because it gets it done quicker. I don’t think I could pick a favourite. I went to see Andrea Boccelli recently and really enjoyed it.

What do you like to read?

I have just finished reading a book called The Price of a Wife by Anne Cunningham. It’s a true story about an Australian cricketer who caused a scandal when he took on the corrupt Catholic Church in Sydney in the late 1890s early 1900s. He named a priest as co-respondent in a divorce trial with whom his wife had an affair. I am now reading To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris an easy read about a dentist who has had his identity stolen online.

What’s your favourite TV programme?

TV dramas like Midsomer Murders.

What’s top of your bucket list?

A holiday to Italy or Cuba.

Do you cook, if so what is your speciality?

I do like to cook and do everything from scratch as I don’t like ready made meals. I’m not a fan of takeaways so I tend to make one pot meals, like curry or stew, and freeze it. My speciality would be pork steak with apricot and pecan stuffing and a chasseur sauce. I also make a very good apple tart.

What is the worst feature of your character?

I hate waiting.

Tell me something about yourself very few people know?

I leave everything to the last minute.

What really annoys you?

People who are two-faced.

What gets you through when the going gets tough?

Going hill walking with friends, there is nothing you can do about problems when you are up on top of a mountain.

What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received?

I have probably been given lots and ignored it all.

What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?

Have fun and plenty of hobbies.

Alive or dead who would you like to have a drink with?

Freddy Mercury, of all the people I never got to see. I couldn’t get to Slane and he was brilliant.

What are your pet hates?

Having my photo taken and selfish drivers.

What would you like to be remembered for?

That I did my best to be a good parent and friend.

Download a copy of Head space – Minding your Mental Health.

Interview by Martina O’Leary