Keith Walsh is an Irish radio broadcaster, presenter and writer. He worked on RTÉ 2fm's early morning programme Breakfast Republic for five years.
In 2020, Keith took a leap of faith and left RTE last September. In his farewell tweet, Keith wrote “I trust the next chapter because I know the author”. After 20 years in the music industry, Keith joined Thinkhouse as a Creative Director in April 2021.
I first came across Keith a few months ago on an online course with Siobhan Murray – the Burnout Coach. I also started following him on social media for his upbeat humour and positive attitude – a tonic that was needed over the past year.
Keith describes himself as ‘not your usual Mental Health advocate’ and is an open book about going to therapy. He is passionate about men expressing their feelings rather than backing themselves into a corner. He has written a play called ‘Pure Mental’ and hopes to bring it to Kilkenny’s Watergate Theatre by the end of this year.
Keith has a lovely connection with Kilkenny as his parents were born and breed in the heart of the city. It was lovely to hear him chat about his fond childhood memories of summer holidays in our City, along with getting locked into the Castle Park!
Today, Keith lives in Kildare with his wife Suzanne and two children Anna and Finn.
Here is a glimpse into the world of Keith…
Tell us about your Kilkenny roots?
My Mum and Dad are born, breed and buttered in Kilkenny. They now live in Kildare but my Dad grew up in the Butts and my Mum is from Teresa’s Terrace.
I remember spending summers in Kilkenny, playing in the CBS field behind Teresa’s Terrace. One summer’s evening my older cousin Richard and I got locked into your Castle grounds. We thought we would have to stay there for the night but we found an escape route over the high wall by the River Nore. It was quite a drop and a very dramatic escape from the Castle!
My Dad’s grandfather was a footman for the Butlers of Kilkenny Castle, when the family lived there. He worked with the horses. So I basically have a claim to the Castle if it ever comes up for grabs!
You presented the Breakfast Republic for five years. You threw your heart and soul into it and then it was suddenly cancelled. Do you miss radio?
I can’t say I miss it, but I do miss the people. Bernard O’Shea, Jennifer Zamparelli and myself did the Breakfast Show on 2FM and we got the listenership up. We enjoyed it but its high pressure.
I always worked in breakfast radio so I never had a nine to five job, it was more like 5am to lunchtime. I thought it was a good way of working as I was always home to help the kids with their homework. I realise now that I was probably wrecked all the time.
You declared recently that you will never drink alcohol again. Why?
Towards the end of 2019, I was really busy in work as well as trying to write a play. I realised I needed my wits about me and a clear head for the year ahead. So I invented the ‘100 days of no booze’ challenge!
It’s a year and five months later and I am keeping the challenge going. I made the announcement on social media because I really want to stay booze free. My drinking wasn’t bad, I just don’t want to drink again. I find it frees up so much time.
I only really ever drank at weekends, on holidays or at weddings. Life is much better without alcohol, that’s ultimately it. The feeling I got from alcohol didn’t make me feel any better in my head. That anxiety and the fear is now gone.
I was also doing a lot of work on my mental health so I didn’t know how I was going to progress as a person and I didn’t need the booze thrown on that fire. I don’t miss the anxiety and the fear. I feel free.
I don’t think people realise how much time it takes up, you are either thinking about drinking or not drinking. When you give it up you have a whole other bath of energy and other things become more important.
You have talked openly about your own personal struggles with your mental health and wished you had gone to therapy earlier.
I highly recommend therapy and wish I had gone before I had my kids, even before I got married. The reason why I talk about it a lot, is because it shouldn’t be a big deal. You don’t have to hit rock bottom, it’s just good to go to talk to someone and get stuff off your chest.
I’ve learned and experienced a lot in my life, but I think if I had gone to therapy in my late teens, it would have helped me a lot more now. Helped me to know myself, to love myself, to appreciate myself and allow myself to do the things that I wanted to do.
I am only getting to that point now in my life, which in one way is a bit of a shame, but in another way it’s great that I am getting to do it at all because some people don’t get to that point.
You wrote a play called ‘Pure Mental’, which we hope to see in Kilkenny’s Watergate. What is it about?
We were all set to tour last year so hopefully it will appear in the Watergate by the end of 2021. It’s a one man show, performed by me, about me and what happened to Keith when the Breakfast Show finished up.
It hit me hard that the show ended, for many reasons. So I explore that in the play and how I discovered therapy. It’s similar to a midlife crisis and how you get out the other end of it to become a better person.
I wanted to take this crisis and turn it into an opportunity. I hope it helps others. As men we are bad are expressing ourselves, we back ourselves into a corner that we can’t get out of. We are expected to ‘man up’ and to be the strong silent type.
Losing your job in your forties can be crimpling. However I knew there was a story in this, if I could tell it properly, it could help others.
The fallout of this pandemic will have an incredible effect on our mental health. It’s not something we can put rose coloured glasses on for and pretend it’s not coming down the line. What should we do?
This is something I could talk a lot about. We need to look at the way we work and the school system. A lot of work places can now see the financial benefit of the blended work week, where we mix working from home and going into the office. There’s huge benefits in not commuting for hours every day, it means we are not too wrecked or stressed and the weekends are not just about recovering from the week’s work.
We need to let people off the hook and give them a bit of space. For example, the schools have been fantastic during the lockdown, they have been very reactive, but at the same time they are still very driven. It’s admirable that they are getting the work done.
The teachers are doing their jobs, but I think someone in the Department of Education should be telling teachers that we need to give our kids time to recover and chill out, instead of all the pressure of exams.
There’s no point in getting up to the top of the ladder and then realise it was up against the wrong wall. Let the kids find their feet again instead of having exam pressure. We really need to look after ourselves and give ourselves time to recover.
What is your one piece advice for people struggling with mental health?
Find a good therapist. In general figure out what is important to you. You need to sit down with yourself and write down what you want in life, in an ideal scenario and work towards it. Pick time for yourself everyday doing the things that you love and be very selfish about it. Put your own oxygen mask on first before you look after anyone else. It sounds selfish, but it’s real.
Listen to Siobhan’s full interview with Keith on the Kilkenny People Newspaper YouTube channel. You can also tune into Keith’s weekly podcast - The Keith Walsh Podcast!
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