Grainne to sing out about mental illness

April 2nd, 2016 7:20 AM

By Southern Star Team

Gráinne Quick-Humphrys is back playing music.

Share this article

A West Cork musician has said she is finally ready to return to her first love, after years of fighting mental illness.

A WEST Cork musician has said she is finally ready to return to her first love, after years of fighting mental illness.

It’s been a twenty year hiatus for Gráinne Quick-Humphrys after her collapse, in 1998, from what she describes as ‘a nervous breakdown brought on by unresolved childhood issues’. 

As a young adult she had thrown herself into a burgeoning music career and the lifestyle that went with it. Just as top London record labels were beginning to notice her potential, she began to unravel, unable to cope with responsibilities and behaving unpredictably. Her grandmother put her on a plane back home to West Cork where, she says, ‘she disintegrated into further despair’.

 But she also found much hope in West Cork. ‘In those dark days I was devastated and terrified and it was very difficult for my loved ones who tried to look after me,’ she recalls.

‘I was shuffled between friends, family and the Bantry Psychiatric Unit,’ she admits now. But one thing she remembers from her breakdown is how kind people in the community were. ‘I really felt held and cherished by many people, especially Giana and Tom Ferguson at Gubbeen Farmhouse, who invited me into their home for a time.’

It was two years before Grainne could function in society again.

Today Gráinne says there is a positive side to her illness. ‘When you’ve scaled those heights and depths, you have seen and felt things that others can only imagine – some euphoric, some awful, all intense. The cool side of madness is the creative component. Any brain that has been that creative to survive can also house some raw talent and strong intuition. I see my breakdown as a blessing in disguise.’

Gráinne spent the last decade rearing her young family and working as an activist for human rights in the Irish mental health system. She was part of a group that went to Dublin City University to promote better mental healthcare treatments including the ‘Open Dialogue’ approach. Her work in this field culminated in a high profile media campaign which was featured on RTE’s 2011 documentary Behind the Walls by the late Mary Raftery.

Ready to re-start her career, Gráinne is excited about her new project. ‘My debut album, A Garland for a Straitjacket has been four is ready to return to her music care years in the making and explores madness. I have written 12 piano-based songs that are ready to take to the next stage and producer Wayne Sheehy of Ocean Studios in West Cork is on board.’

The musician feels she can finally address her own history and her own demons. ‘I was always advocating for other people with mental health issues, but now I want to stand up and own the fact that I experienced mental and emotional distress too, and here I am today to tell the tale, except that I want to sing it! I need to do this as part of my recovery,’ she said.

To help fund Gráinne’s recovery album, donate to her Fund-It Campaign at

Share this article