It's 5am as I sit writing this

Story by John Donohoe

Thursday, 13th December, 2018 6:29am

It's 5am as I sit writing this

Leinster player Jack McGrath launches the Tackle Your Feelings app, a mental wellbeing campaign run by Rugby Players Ireland.

It’s five o’clock in the morning as I sit in front of the laptop to start writing this. The rain is battering on the windows, but it’s not the rain that’s keeping me awake. It’s the tears in my eyes. 
It’s not for the first time this week, either. You think you know lads. But do we really know anybody? Or how they are?
Earlier this week, a lad I know put up a post on Facebook. It was long and detailed, but in a nutshell explained how at one stage, things had come to such an impasse that he had considered taking his own life. It was only by looking at his kids and the love of his partner that he decided not to go down that route. 
A few weeks ago I had read a post from another lad I know. Again, life was getting on top of him, and he had “taken to the bed”, to use an old expression. Again, it was the thoughts of his wife and kids that eventually pulled him out of that bed.
Both of these lads always seemed outgoing, confident, successful, sporty, are good looking, have great partners. But then, I suppose, they disappeared off the scene for a bit. Went to ground. 
Did I notice? I did, but took it that our paths just weren’t crossing that much anymore. They had changed jobs, moved areas. I didn’t realise that they were attempting to deal with bigger issues. But I know now, because they have been brave enough to say it publicly.
Because there have been other lads that haven’t dealt with it this way. They have dealt with it a different way. In a way which has seen their families standing around a graveside. 
I’m thinking in particular of two lads, neighbours of each other, one of whom I went to school with and who died less than a year ago. He was a shocking nice lad, a few years younger than me, but friendly with the younger brother of one of my classmates. Hence, anytime I met him on the street in the years after school, he was always friendly and chatty. I’m not even sure he knew my name. And when I heard he had died, I had to go Googling him to see was it him. It was. He was one of the best looking lads from our time in school, and had lots of good friends and family, yet whatever was on his mind, it clearly caused him great distress. 
His friends and acquaintances have now got together to organise a Darkness into Light Walk in his hometown to raise funds – but more importantly, raise awareness - of Pieta House, the charity which provides counselling to those in suicide distress. 
Again, you think you know a lad. By chance, I met another lad from our school days a few months ago. Again, one of the lads who had it all going for him – looks, talent, success.
Only in this case, I knew his relationship had broken up. And I asked him how he was. And he told me. He told me he was attending Pieta House. I was shocked, but in a way, glad that he was. And glad that, even though we would only see one another once in a blue moon, that he felt able to say that to me too. And there isn’t any reason why he shouldn’t be able to say it to anyone. 
Too many of us are trying to put the brave face on things. Too quick to say ‘I’m grand’ when someone asks. Afraid to actually say how we are because it’s not the way we are meant to be. We are supposed to be the fantastic footballer, hurler or sportsperson, successful businessman, strong husband or father, pillar of the community – I’m dwelling on the menfolk at the moment for a particular reason.
In the last month around county Meath, it has been reported that there has been at least seven suicides of men from their early 20s to their 50s. As the sister of one of these men said to me during the week, if these men died in car crashes, or some other tragic means, it would be a major story, and we’d be looking at ways to prevent such deaths.
Maybe there is a way to prevent such deaths. Start caring about each other more. Slow down from the relentless pace of life. Ask somebody how they are, and mean it. And when someone asks you – tell them. Don’t bottle it up. Or don’t wait to be asked. Talk about it. If not to someone close to you, then to Pieta House, SOSAD, the Samaratians.

It’s easier said than done. But it will end the torture. In a positive way.

The rain has stopped.


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