Grieving father’s plea to share any feelings of despair
IT was a simple gesture, but one that may have saved a life.
A card with the details for SOSAD, the local suicide prevention service, slipped to a grieving father by undertaker Paddy Townley at a tragic funeral, just in case he needed support.
Before his 29-year-old son Anthony took his own life on December 11th 2014, Oliver Doonan had never heard of SOSAD, but in the weeks that followed the funeral, he was to become very familiar with them.
‘I few weeks after Anthony died, I knew I needed help – when I think back, I was in a lot of trouble, I just wanted to be with him – and it was then I remembered the information Paddy had given us as the funeral,” he recalls, his voice still cracking with emotion as he speaks.
“I had never even heard of SOSAD, and jumping forward, it’s probably one of the regrets that I didn’t know about them when Anthony was alive, with all the difficulties he had.”
Within days of contacting Carmel Hancock in the SOSAD office, Oliver had been assessed and assigned a counsellor called Kathleen McGonagle.
“Kathleen was from Derry, and she used to get a bus, two trains and a taxi to come to our sessions, and I might be the only one she had that day, but she was always there for me, ‘he says.
“I bonded with her immediately, she was so gentle, so understanding because it was so painful. I could be there sometimes for two hours, breaking down every two minutes, and yet I never felt rushed. She would just sit back and let me talk about Anthony and the difficulties I was having.”
Oliver said when something like this visits your family, you just don’t see the need to go on.
“I never in my life was suicidal, but I know I came close. To be honest though, I wouldn’t have had the courage to do what Anthony did – it must have been so bad for him that he did it.’
A former pupil of St John’s and St Paul’s, Anthony was passionate about sport, and played with St Mary’s GFC from the u8s, before transferring to Duleek and Bellewstown in his 20s.
He graduated with a first class honours degree in Sports Management in UCD, but Oliver says a lack of confidence in his own abilities plagued his entire life.
“He was very talented, and succeeded in whatever he focused on, but unfortunately in his own eyes he was a failure, and he strove for perfection that was just not possible to reach.
“Even the lads on his own team were shocked to hear that he had problems, and he was another person to them - outgoing, confident and social – but inside, battled so many demons.”
Oliver hopes that more and more sports clubs will spread the word about positive mental health and break the idea that talking about it is ‘unmanly’.
“I commend the work done by the likes of Bressie, Brent Pope and the many GAA players who have spoken of depression, to make it easier for people who are suffering,” adds Oliver.
“Anthony put desperate pressure on himself, and I worry for other young people who are going through these things alone, when the likes of SOSAD can help.”
Oliver Doonan with an image of his son, Anthony, and a St Mary’s Donore jersey in his honour.