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PJ Gallagher: Changing My Mind review – Comedian’s mental health no laughing matter

Television: Comedian and broadcaster could have done with a lot more time to air his articulate views on this important subject

Early in his career, comedian and broadcaster PJ Gallagher wanted to be known as “the funny guy”. Nowadays, many people see him as “the depression guy”. He says this at the start of PJ Gallagher: Changing My Mind (RTÉ One, Monday, 9.35pm), a moving if over-ambitious chronicling of his mental health challenges as he prepares to become a father.

It’s an emotive documentary and Gallagher, star of RTÉ's Naked Camera and a breakfast presenter on Radio Nova in Dublin, is an articulate spokesman on mental health – frank about the challenges he has faced, optimistic about being there for his partner, Kelly Doolin, and their twins.

Depression drove Gallagher to a dark place. “If I’d had my way, I’d be two years dead,” he says. At his lowest point, he didn’t need to talk – he required “24-hour round the clock care”. In that dark moment he turned to his friend, the writer Stefanie Preissner, before checking into St Patrick’s Hospital in Dublin for three months. “There’s something wrong with you,” Preissner says as they catch up for a matey lunch. “I’m autistic. I’m allowed to say these things.”

Encouraged by her warm, honest support, Gallagher undergoes an assessment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which is characterised by inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.


He also reflects on his family history. He and his sister are adopted and had a chaotic upbringing. Their parents turned over part of their home to mental health patients taking their first steps back into the community. “One side of the house [you had] six people who were pretty severely mentally ill,” says Gallagher. “Our family dynamic was off the charts.”

Gallagher and Kelly are expecting twins as the documentary begins. As a younger man, he felt ill-suited to parenthood. Nowadays, he sees family not as a burden but a life raft. He used to believe that “if no one can rely on you it takes anxiety away”. But he’s had a rethink: “Now I’m here having twins, and it turns out the best things I’ve ever done”.

PJ Gallagher’s Changing My Mind packs in a great deal in – perhaps too much. Gallagher talks to a men’s support group, goes freshwater swimming with another men’s club, and meets representatives from suicide prevention charity Pieta House.

We also discover late in the documentary that his mother has died and that he is struggling with grief. There is an assumption too that we are fully versed in Gallagher’s mental health history, and that we go into the film knowing about his three months at St Pat’s. Some viewers will be aware of this but it would nonetheless have been helpful to have a quick recap of his past experiences with mental health.

This is an affecting documentary, but slightly overstuffed. It could do with a longer run-time or even an upgrade to a full series. Mental health is a long conversation, and it would have been great to hear more from Gallagher on the subject.