26 Sept 2022

Meet the families taking part in Operation Transformation — Keeping Well Apart

New show starts on RTÉ One this evening

Meet the families taking part in Operation Transformation — Keeping Well Apart

The Operation Transformation experts - Karl Henry, Dr Sumi Dunne, presenter Kathryn Thomas, Aoife Hearne and Dr Eddie Murphy

In this special series of Operation Transformation, which starts this Wednesday night, April 15 on RTÉ One, the team of experts will focus, instead of weight loss, on connecting the community and reducing social isolation in this strange time.

There were hundreds of applications to take part. Over the course of the next few weeks, these families will allow us into their lives so that we can support them and through them support others during the Covid-19 restrictions.

The Gavins - Castlebar, Co. Mayo. Life on hold

Mary has moved back from Dubai, where her husband is in social isolatio. Her four daughters - Niamh (29), Deirdre (28), Ailis (24) and Roisin (20) - have all moved back to Castlebar to be with their mam.

They don’t know when they will get back to their regular lives. They are a very outgoing family, who are stuck with each other and are finding things tough in isolation. Who isn’t?

Roisin is studying first year Law in UCC, and while exams have turned into essays there is a lack of clarity about so many things.

Deirdre lives and works in Dublin and works in project management. She has left her fiance in Dublin. Deirdre was in the middle of planning her wedding and all things have been put on hold.

They are struggling to find creative things to do as a family while stuck in isolation. They don’t know what exercises to do inside and are sick of running outside. The family are struggling with routine at the moment. Essentially, the Gavins’ life, like that of so many of us, is on hold. We will see how they cope and hopefully we can assist.

The Ryan/Mongey family, Dublin. In Leaving Cert limbo

Emma is a dental hygienist, and Ray is a freelance visual effects artist – he has always worked from home. Lucy, 18, finds herself stuck, like thousands of others, in Leaving Cert Limbo, and there is Eve, 5, and Alice, 2. They have been in self-isolation since the schools closed.

As a family they are nervous about catching Covid-19. Emma is availing of social welfare for the first time in her adult life since her dental practice closed down. The family share anxieties like many others that they are going to get Covid-19. While they are ordering their shopping online, delivery slots have run out so they are doing click and collect and Ray goes for the shopping. They only leave the house for their walk together.

For Ray who has always worked from home, his routine has somewhat been disrupted as everyone is home at the same time! He’d normally be at his desk from 8am, but now it's getting closer to 10am every morning. Emma is experiencing sleep disturbance and wakes up in the middle of the night worrying about food and whether she will have enough to feed the family.

Lucy, at 18, is bored. Before all of this she was told to stay off social media, that she was having too much screen time. Now it’s the only way she can communicate with her friends.

Staying in is difficult – but she knows her mum would ‘kill’ her if she went out so staying in is the only option. With her Leaving Cert due to start in June, she just wants the decisions made. She and her classmates are discussing it all of the time – she just wants it to happen and if it’s not going to happen, for them to be told.

Ann Brophy, Dublin. Cocooning

Ann, 61, has asthma and COPD, and has been in self isolation for nearly three weeks. Ann is gregarious, and chatty. She speaks from the heart and is not afraid to be open and honest. Ann was married for 28 years, and she divorced 12 years ago. She is one of 11 siblings – they grew up in Ringsend, Dublin.

She has worked as assistant manager of Newbridge House and Farm for five years; she loves her job. She loves the people she works with and the groups, families and individuals who visit the house in Donabate every day.

Up until three weeks ago, she was never at home. She left first thing in the morning and came back in the evening time. Going for coffee is Ann’s thing – either on her own for some great people watching or with a friend for a gossip.

Now that Ann is cocooning her world has changed completely. At 61 she thinks she might need to re-invent herself – but how is she going to do this sitting at home on her own, not able to go outside? This is not who Ann is – she is worried her career is gone and how, at 61, will she start a new career? She is a person who has always been in control of her life, where she can go, what she can do, now that has been taken away from her?

Lots of questions have emerged for Ann, just like for the rest of us. This is a time of uncertainty where there are more questions than answers.

The Ryans, Cappamore, Co Limerick. Young family challenges

Sarah (33) and Dave (32) have young children, Cooper (4) and Charlie (3). Previously, Dave has experienced depression and Sarah has experienced anxiety post-natally.

Sarah works as a learning and development supervisor and David is an inventory controller. With young children they are trying to balance, work and family life.

When the pandemic hit Sarah was only just back to work after maternity leave. The family were beginning to readjust to their new routine and then everything changed.

Trying to work from home has been incredibly stressful for Sarah and David as they juggle video conference calls and minding two small children. Charlie is teething and his naps are all over the place while Cooper is craving her attention. They have no childcare now as the kids aren’t going to creche and they don’t want Sarah’s parents to mind the kids and be at risk. They are concerned about the future and how they can manage. This stress creates a lot of tension.

The Ryans are great talkers and very honest about their situation. They feel their routine is all out of whack, they need support and guidance on how to get through their quarantine and keep their minds and bodies healthy.

Operation Transformation - Staying Well Apart starts this Wednesday evening, April 15, at 9.35pm on RTÉ One.

Dr Eddie Murphy is a clinical psychologist, author and mental health expert. ONLINE CBT - STOP DEPRESSION - STOP ANXIETY - available at

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