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Carthy reveals torment to help others to escape the darkness

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CAMPAIGN: Pieta ambassadors Louise Cooney, Shane Carthy and Mary Black, pictured at the launch of Pieta’s Christmas campaign, #HopeOverSilence, an appeal to break the stigma of lonely, silent nights. Photo: Andres Poveda

CAMPAIGN: Pieta ambassadors Louise Cooney, Shane Carthy and Mary Black, pictured at the launch of Pieta’s Christmas campaign, #HopeOverSilence, an appeal to break the stigma of lonely, silent nights. Photo: Andres Poveda

CAMPAIGN: Pieta ambassadors Louise Cooney, Shane Carthy and Mary Black, pictured at the launch of Pieta’s Christmas campaign, #HopeOverSilence, an appeal to break the stigma of lonely, silent nights. Photo: Andres Poveda

There's a photo of Shane Carthy from 2013. He's clad in the blue of Dublin standing at the top of the steps of the Hogan Stand, the Sam Maguire chalice raised above his head.

Carthy is only 18 (see opposite page) and just starting college but already he has the game's most precious medal in his pocket. On the face of it, he's a picture of contentment and to just about everyone else, the world is at his feet.

Internally however, he's cracking after more than a year pretending he was okay.

It'd be 12 months later before he'd seek the help he needed. Over the space of a couple of years, depression and anxiety set in and led to suicidal thoughts. The young man who seemed to have everything didn't have peace in his own head.

Eventually he found the courage to talk. Piece by piece, he built himself back up and slowly he equipped himself with the tools he needed to deal with his thoughts and emotions.

"I'm not shying away from that I still have good and bad days. But thankfully my bad days are not where they once were."

He still gets people who are surprised to hear his story. They are stunned that someone who could achieve such great things so young could struggle so much.

"There's still that thing where I speak to people and they say, I can't believe your story because you were an intercounty footballer. I suppose they see that thing of a tough man who shows no signs of weakness. And they say 'I can't believe that you of all people could go through it'."

He's still involved in the the Dublin set up, as part of the extended squad that Dessie Farrell runs parallel with the main group. But he's busy in other areas too. Carthy has taken his story on the road. In 2019, he delivered just over 100 talks to schools, clubs and businesses. Early next year, he'll publish a book on his journey to date. Dark Blue is set to be on the shelves in early February.

He's also helping to promote Pieta's Christmas campaign #HopeOverSilence which calls people to place a candle in their window to represent hope at 7.0pm tonight.

In terms of mental health, the country has come a long way, even since he sought help back in 2014. But it still has some road to travel.

"I'm 26 and back in 2012 when it really did start for me in the middle of fifth year, there was never a conversation about mental health. We didn't know what depression or anxiety or anything like that was.

"So in those terms the conversation has come on a long, long way. But from a government or society point of view we are lagging way behind. Because the amount of conversations I'm having with people around mental health is hugely positive, but then the same conversation comes along so often. People tell me 'I have to wait two months to see a psychologist' or 'I wasn't able to get into St Patrick's mental hospital it was too expensive'.

There is, Carthy says, no secret to taking the first step out of the darkness. "That's the thing. For me it was my Mam and Dad and my three sisters. But very often people think they don't want to burden their family so they find them the most difficult to talk to.

"So what I would say is find someone you can confide in. If it's Joe or Mary down the road, or a coach or teacher or a boss, find someone you can confide in and have that conversation."

With Christmas around the corner Pieta are calling on people to look out for one another.

And for Carthy, little things can make huge differences. "For people in the depths of despair that can mean the most."

Pieta's Christmas campaign is #HopeOverSilence. The appeal is calling on people to place a candle in their window to represent hope at 7.0pm tonight.

To donate directly to Pieta or for more support information, visit www.pieta.ie


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