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'It leaves a massive hole': GAA stars open up on the impact of suicide

Galway’s Conor Whelan and Niall O’Meara of Tipperary spoke about how suicide has impacted on their families.

Galway's Conor Whelan and Niall O'Meara of Tipperary talking about how suicide has affected their families.
Galway's Conor Whelan and Niall O'Meara of Tipperary talking about how suicide has affected their families.

HURLING STARS HAVE opened up about their experience with suicide in an effort to encourage others to take care of their mental health.

All-Ireland winning forward Conor Whelan from Galway, and Tipperary’s Niall O’Meara appeared on Friday’s edition of Ireland AM to participate in the programme’s Time to Talk mental health campaign, which featured numerous guests throughout the week.

O’Meara was just 11 years old when he lost his brother Paul to suicide, while Conor’s cousin Niall Donoghue was just 22 when he tragically passed away.

Donoghue was a Galway hurler before his death, and lined out in the 2012 All-Ireland final defeat to Kilkenny.

O’Meara explained how he wants to raise awareness of the condition in honour of his brother’s memory.

“You think a person could have everything but on the inside they’re really hurting.

“For myself, my brother committed suicide. It just left a gap in our family that can never be filled again.

“Especially nowadays, it seems to be unfortunately getting more common so the more that’s done for it, the better.

I suppose we were devastated, we ended up moving house and different things like that just because we were destroyed after it. It was very difficult for us.

“But we came through it fairly well and my mother and father deserve great credit for that.”

Speaking of his memories of Paul’s death, he said:

“Paul was 21 at the time, he was after coming back from a night out I think having a few drinks and you wouldn’t be thinking too much of it.

“I had a good relationship with Paul and you just wouldn’t know, I was too young to know maybe. Obviously, my parents weren’t too sure either. You don’t know why but these things happen.”

Tackling the stigmas associated with mental health is something that both Whelan and O’Meara addressed during the interview.

Whelan revealed that he attended an event in his local town Kinvara recently, where he learned that children as young as 10 and 11 are contemplating suicide.

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He emphasised the importance of educating young people about depression and other mental health conditions in order to prevent further tragedies.

It leaves a massive hole. It’s just something that has to be talked about and there’s still a stigma there.

“Before Niall, I never knew what the word depression was so do young people know what depression is? Do they understand that if you’re not feeling well and feeling down, that is depression.

The pair also touched on the rate of men who die by suicide, and stressed the importance of men opening up about their issues.

“Especially for men,” says Whelan, “the statistics show that it’s men who are suffering more. I know women suffer as well but it does show that men are suffering more.

“For a man, he might think he looks weak talking but actually it shows strength for a man to come to another person and say they’re not feeling well.”

Watch the full interview here.

Posted by on Wednesday, 3 March 2021

If you need to talk, contact:

  • Samaritans 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org
  • Aware 1800 804848 (depression, anxiety)
  • Pieta House 1800 247247 or email mary@pieta.ie – (suicide, self-harm)
  • Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833634 (for ages 13 to 19)
  • Childline 1800 666666 (for under 18s)

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