Griev­ing fa­ther’s plea to share any feel­ings of de­spair

Mid Louth Independent - - NEWS - By ALI­SON COMYN

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.

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