Josh Deegan filming Bruised Not Broken in Mullingar Town Park.

Teen’s mental health experiences inspire new film

By Conor Halpin

A young Mullingar man’s experiences of maintaining sound mental health are the inspiration behind a new documentary on the subject, ‘Bruised Not Broken’.

Josh Deegan (19) is working with Michael Benson Productions on the film, which also includes contributions from Jackie Fox (who campaigned for Coco’s law), other members of the Brighter Thoughts Ireland team, mental health nurses, and counsellors.

Josh says that growing up in Mullingar was great when he was younger, but the older he got, the more he found life challenging.

He attended St Mary’s Primary School and Coláiste Mhuire, where he did his Leaving Certificate in 2019. He went on to Moate Business College in 2019 and graduated in 2020 with an Advanced Social Studies certificate.

Josh was a volunteer with the Order of Malta, an activity he has curtailed to focus on his mental health work. He says the organisation taught him valuable life skills and he would encourage others to consider volunteering as well.

Joshua has spoken widely about his personal battles with mental illness and in the last three years, as the face of Brighter Thoughts Ireland, he has gained a reputation as a leading youth mental health advocate and speaker.

Talking to the Westmeath Examiner, Josh said problems with anxiety have escalated since the Covid-19 pandemic, but they are not new.

“I have lost a number of friends through suicide, which has affected me, but also made me want to stand up, and speak out, and evoke change. Of course, mental health needs to be addressed way more in Ireland, and the existing services need to be improved so much.

“Covid-19 has greatly affected people’s mental health. I have seen an increase in the numbers of people of all ages reaching out to services requesting help.”

In 2017, Josh was selected as a Cycle Against Suicide ambassador. He has also been a Darkness Into Light Mullingar committee member (“the committee has currently stepped down”) and a Pieta House fundraiser.

Michael Benson and Sinéad Hayes of Michael Benson Productions.

Speaking as filming for ‘Bruised Not Broken’ began in Mullingar, Josh said the aim is to increase understanding about how people can help others, and promote a culture in which it is okay to talk about mental health problems.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, a date has not been set for the release of the documentary, though Josh and his team are hoping it will be September 2021. He hopes to have it screened in the IMC cinema Mullingar.

“I’m motivated to do this documentary because I know it will help people, and open up a conversation,” Josh said, adding that his long-term plans remain open: “I’d rather live in the moment and take it day by day,” he said.

Joshua has received official recognition relating to his work in mental health, including a Garda Youth Award in 2019. In 2020, he was again honoured by the Garda for his work. He has delivered talks in schools, youth clubs and at events such as Cycle Against Suicide and DCU Mental Health Week.