Monday 24 October 2016

'I left a note for my mum and dad' - referee Nigel Owens opens up about suicide attempt

Nigel Owens on 3 News.
Nigel Owens on 3 News.

Welsh referee Nigel Owens has opened about about his suicide attempt in a poignant interview with New Zealand television.

The openly gay match official, who has been subjected to abuse from the terraces in the past, appeared on 3 News in New Zealand and spoke candidly about his struggle to deal with his sexuality as a young man.

The 44-year-old, who is known for his dry wit on the pitch, will be the man in the middle for this weekend's Bledisloe Cup decider between New Zealand and Australia.

Owens was asked how difficult it was to come out given that rugby is viewed as a predominantly heterosexual sport.

His answer was very honest.

"It was a very tough, very difficult time in my life. I think the most difficult challenege that anyone comes across in their lives is dealing with who you are and I was dealing with in their lives is dealing with who you are and I was dealing with being someone I didn't want to be, and that was alien to me at 18, 19 years of age," he said.

"I didn't really know a gay person back then, I didn't know what being gay was about. I was becoming someone I didn't want to be, and I did something that I will regret for the rest of my life.

"I was in a state of getting depressed over the years because of dealing with it and I left a note for my mum and dad and said I wasn't able to carry on with my life anymore.

"If I hadn't been found by the rescue helicopter and taken to the local hospital - you know another 20 minutes and I would have been dead and gone because I had attempted suicide.

"That was the wake up call. When I woke up in hospital after a few days in intensive care and your mom tells you that you're their only child and that if you do anything like that and you take me and your dad with you, and I released I better grow up here.

"The challenge of refereeing a Bledisloe Cup decider on Saturday compared to the challenge that I had to overcome in my life back then in a very very dark and difficult time... It will be difficult but not as difficult as what I've experienced in my life.

"Rugby Union, to me, is the greatest team sport. Not only on the field in the world, but certainly off it as well with the people, the communities pulling together

"If it wasn't for the great sport that rugby union is and allowing me to be who I am, I wouldn't be able to do the job and probably wouldn't be here today speaking to you."

Owens will referee Ireland's crucial Pool D clash with France at the Rugby World Cup on October 11.

If you have been affected by this story, you can call the Samaritans by dialling 116 123. Their helpline is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

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