#DepressionHurts wins Best Shorts Competition, California, USA

I had the honour of acting in this short film.

#DepressionHurts wins Best Shorts Competition, California, USA


Dublin,Ireland, May 1, 2012…#DepressionHurts video has won a prestigious Award of Merit from the Best Shorts Competition,California. The award was given for the special purpose video created by a volunteer team to highlight awareness of mental illness and depression.


The project and film was made with the support volunteers from social media network Twitter, who together with producer Norah Bohan and director Alan Lavender helped co-ordinate Ireland’s first 24/7 Twitter helpline for depression and suicide, which ran for the nine days of Christmas and New Year 2011.

Lavender said, “We called the video ‘It Starts With You’ – because it does! It’s how YOU think and behave that either adds to the hurt of depression or suicide or helps the sufferers. We know to change attitude & remove stigma to depression and suicide, ‘It Starts With You’ and we hope lots of ‘You’ will decide to be part of the change.

”Winning the Best Shorts Award of Merit is a tremendous boost to our team. It will certainly help us continue with our important project.”

Winning the Award of Merit has given added excitement to Lavender and Bohan in a  this week that also saw them launch the #depresionHurts Irelandwebsite. www.depressionhurtsireland.com

The Best Shorts Competition recognises film professionals who demonstrate exceptional achievement in craft and creativity and those who produce standout entertainment or contribute to profound social change. Entries are judged by highly qualified professionals in the film industry. Information about the Best Shorts Competition and a list of recent winners can be found at www.bestshorts.net.

In winning best short laurels, #depressionhurts joins the ranks of other high profile winners of this internationally respected award.

Thomas Baker Ph.D, who chaired the Best Shorts Competition, had this to say about the latest winners: “Best Short Laurels are not easy to win. Entries are received from around the world. The best shorts competition helps set the standard for craft and creativity. The judges were pleased with the exceptionally high quality of entries. The goal of the Best Shorts Competition is to help winners achieve the recognition they deserve.”

The film credits:

Producer Norah Bohan, Director and Screenplay Alan Lavender, Director of Photography Gary Fox, Lighting Phil McFadden, Associate Director Edward White, Makeup Wai Har Tsang, Graphic Designer Darragh Kelly, Editor Derek Flynn, Musical director Patrick Cushe The band: Heather Condren, Derek Flynn, David O’Connor, Kev Quarrell. Cast: Donal Creaner, Julian Judge, Mairead Doyle, Laura O’Brien, Maura Donohoe and Jillian Godsil.


The new website can be accessed at www.depressionhurtsireland.com and it provides a wealth of comprehensive information, useful links and valuable support to users, including real life stories and experiences of those affected by the illness. Specialist sections exist with content for Employees, Employers and Trades Unions to support them in the treatment of Mental Health within the workplace, an area where stigma is seen to be a major problem.

The site also provides a downloadable Helpful Hints section, including cut out and carry card with hints and contact details for emergency use.



Info: Norah Bohan 0044 7976 601885 @TalentCoop

Alan Lavender – 00353 87 8524903 @AlanCeltic



TV people don’t sunbathe!

It’s been a very funny start to the year. My five minutes of fame seem to have extended to twelve months of fame, and it doesn’t appear to be stopping anytime soon. You may be familiar with me. I joking call myself the ‘brokest woman in Ireland’ and that may not be so far from the truth. An accident of divorce and the recession left me holding the baby, or rather a one million euro mortgage on a house worth less than half that. I cannot afford to live in the house and I am at the pin of my collar to support and keep my two teenage daughters. Currently, we live in a rented cottage some ten miles from our original house, but it may as well be 100 miles away. I have sold everything from my old house to pay for bills. This year is a bit bleak as I have nothing left to sell and the bills keep coming.

In 2011 I decided to sell my house (the beautiful Georgian Raheengraney House, just outside Shillelagh), come what may. I made a video, posted it on You Tube and it went viral. Mark Little from RTE was in New York and he was questioned about Raheengraney House by editors in the New York Times and The Huffington Post. My house had arrived. A cash offer of €500,000 was secured and my house should have gone. Only the banks stopped the sale. In a short one page letter they said the offer did not equal the mortgage and so they denied me consent to sell.

Fast forward one year and I think the bank must be kicking itself. The house is worth less than half that sum now. My business also collapsed last year under the strain and bailiffs called to my office to seize assets and gave me a week’s stay of execution. Of course there were no assets of value to take. It did not stop me nearly losing my reason, however. For one week I had plans and nightmares of setting up my very own ‘Occupy Shillelagh’ and chaining myself naked to the office door. Fortunately for the good burghers of Shillelagh, that last step was not required. But the visit and experience was the straw on my camel’s back and I nearly went under myself.

My story is not unique. My story is universal. My story is an Irish woman’s story.

In January the UK Telegraph came and visited me. They ran a six page feature in the magazine and devoted two of the pages to Raheengraney. In February, the American National Public Radio (NPR) came and interviewed me. So too the Irish Times ran a half page feature on the house. In March, BBC came and filmed Raheengraney. Last week the RTE documentary unit spent two days filming there. TV3 also filmed last week for the Midweek programme on squeezing the middle classes and even a Belgian Film crew popped over to film Raheengraney House.

Funny things I have learnt from filming include don’t sunbathe while filming. While working with RTE, time and light meant we had to cut short some sequences in the house to return the next working day, after the weekend. Accordingly I wore the same clothes that I have been kindly given by Deirdre Minogue boutique in Rathwood, my own wardrobe being a bit ropey, but on the Monday, after a glorious weekend of sunshine, I was sporting a suntan! That’ll pose a bit of a problem for continuity:  pale Jill, suntanned Jill, pale Jill, suntanned Jill!

Other advice might be always carry a hanky. TV3 came to me very early in the morning, 8am to be precise and filmed in a beautiful bright sunny, freezing morning. Not good for a sniffy nose!

And then I discovered that while recording the American radio interview, I had misplaced the keys. So for BBC and TV3 I had to break into my own house, using crowbars, kitchen chairs and torches to negotiate my way up the dark basement stairs. I guess the word to the wise here would be – don’t lose your keys in the first place. Fortunately by the time the Belgians arrived, I had found the keys in a spare jacket and our continental friends did not have to witness the mad Irish breaking into their own houses. A blessing indeed.

I also discovered the strange world of nodding and noddies. While the BBC had a crew of seven, the Belgians three and the Irish two, there was still only one cameraman with each. To get a two headed interview required the cameraman to focus on me or the interviewer as we spoke, only to return later to film silent ‘noddies’ which would be inserted into the sequence later in the editing suite. Trying not to laugh or talk while either ‘nodding’ or being ‘nodded to’ is very hard.

The media haze has been very tiring this month in particular. But I have been asked some really important questions. Questions on what responsibility should the banks take from this mess and how can the government deal with massive personal debt, namely through the introduction of fair bankruptcy laws. These questions are not just mine, they are important for Irish society to allow us to move forward as a viable, thriving country and not a people under the cosh and paying for the sins of the reckless. There is a need for bankers, politicians, senior civil servants and regulators to take responsibility for their actions and the devastating results. There is a need to find resolution too, and one that does not unfairly penalise the ‘small’ person.

I have also been asked is there a reason for my own particular media haze? I believe there is. For two reasons: My story is not unique. There are many others in a similar pickle. I think that by talking and listening we not only help each other, we also can find a fair and equitable way out of this mess. Financial insolvency is not a crime and not a mark of shame. However, people are daily committing suicide because of massive personal debt. This is wrong. The more we talk about it, the more we can help those who can’t see past by the mountain of debt. This too will pass.

The second reason is my film. Called Running out of Road, and based on my novel, the one that Michael Fassbender agreed to launch, this film will explore what life was like for people living through the Celtic Crash and how we come out the far side.

There will be a happy ending.


We are an Island Race

Exporting is part of our culture. Since we learnt we were on an island we have expended as much time getting off as we have expelling invaders. Our monks have sailed boats in far flung adventures while repelling invaders became a part of our lives once St Patrick expelled the snakes. When we couldn’t get rid of our next influx of unwanted visitors we often resorted to down right, low down tactics and married them. Think of the Normans more Irish than the Irish themselves. We consumed our invaders and we exported our under-the-radar colonists. The only difference with our colonising is that we used words and song and music to grab emotional landbanks across the world. A recent comment on WorldIrish had one non Irish commenter suggest there were 40million living today on this small island. The sheer weight would of course have sunk our patch of green but it is a testament to the vast export of our numbers over the years.

For an island race we are an interesting mix of conflicting characteristics. For an island race, we don’t really swim that well as a nation, we could argue we don’t have the weather. We don’t really eat fish very well as a nation, and I’m not including the breaded variety. We do often marry our own and while world renowned for being friendly, that can be closed to people outside our community. Where we do excel is in carrying our culture, words, songs and stories, with us when we travel and down through the generations. And we have a strong sense of who we are. Moreover the world has a strong sense of who we are.

While some of the adjectives liberally applied to being Irish are not so flattering, such as the drinking and fighting, others are striking such as the musical nature of our people, the cultural heritage we just assume as our birthright and the energy of a people who have faced much but come back for more.

There are few nations in this global village that have such strong brand. Step back a moment. Think about other countries, both bigger and smaller than ours, and think about how much we know about them. Think of our national day. What other country gets to celebrate their national day on a global basis, in cities and towns across the world.

What other country has exported so many people that have left their mark wherever they travel. Uniquely, other nations aspire to be Irish in a way that is out of the commonplace, out of the norm.

Over the years, we have exported the best of us and the worst of us.

When I was exported some two decades ago, there were very few jobs at home. The main difference to 2012 is that my parents were not wracked with debt that threatened to drown them, theirs or from a toxic bank. I also left a very proud Irishwoman. We were the darlings of Europe. We had an educated population that was in demand on a world stage. We had positive legislation to encourage inward investment. We had entrepreneurs and thinkers and world leaders. We had world beating sports people, authors, inventors, creators, innovators, dreamers, musicians, poets, filmmakers and scientists.

We still do.

We have let the workings of a few distort the work of the many. We have not changed as a nation. We are still those heady, creative, intelligent, warm and educated people.

What we have to confront is the short but lethal legacy of the banks and developers and politicians and trappings of greed. In two short decades we have been pulled down by cronyism and greed.

No island race in the world has the energy and the persistence of ours. That dogged nature and love of natural justice will come back and dominate again. We have been the underdog too long to let the minders of greed take away our pride.

It is time to stop exporting. It is time to examine what we have. It is time to build a new future.