Former hurler tells of struggle with depression

Cork's Conor Cusack urges people with mental health problems not to suffer in silence

Conor Cusack spoke to students at University College Cork. Screengrab.

Conor Cusack spoke to students at University College Cork. Screengrab.

Tue, Nov 19, 2013, 07:32

Former Cork hurler, Conor Cusack spoke last night of his struggle with depression and how he contemplated taking his own life.

He urged people suffering mental health problems not to suffer in silence but to reach out to others and seek help.

Mr Cusack said that his struggles with mental health started when he was 15 and he began suffering panic attacks which led to him to withdrawing from his family and friends, prompting him to give up school in his Leaving Cert year much to the dismay of his parents.

He told how he would wake at night in a ball of sweat and spend hours weeping with tears as the panic attacks became more intense and frequent until depression overtook him to the point that he spent five months in his bedroom, refusing to go out.

Mr Cusack, who last month was widely praised by mental health campaigners for his candid blog chronicling his own journey from depression to positivity, received a warm and enthusiastic reception from an audience of close to 400 people at University College Cork.

Speaking on the theme “A journey with my freedom friend”, at an event organised by the UCC Students Union, Mr Cusack said he hoped that his experience in overcoming his difficulties would help others who might find themselves in similar situations.

Mr Cusack, brother of former Cork goalkeeper, Donal óg Cusack, chronicled in his blog how he experienced a breakdown in his late teens and described how he came close to taking his own life but how the support of family and a therapist helped him on a journey of recovery.

“I decided one night death outweighed my desire for living. I decided I was going to kill myself . . . For some reason my mother never went to Mass (that evening) and it was ultimately a decision of hers that saved my life,” said Mr Cusack

He went on RTÉ’s Prime Time and told how meeting a therapist helped him to find his inner strength he never knew he had. We sat opposite each other in a converted cottage at the side of his house with a fire lighting in the corner. He looked at me with his warm eyes and said ‘I hear you haven’t been too well. How are you feeling ?’. . . I looked at him for about a minute or so and I began to cry.

“When the tears stopped, I talked and he listened intently. Driving home with my mother that night, I cried again, but it wasn’t tears of sadness, it was tears of joy. I knew that evening I was going to get better. There was finally a chink of light in the darkness.” Mr Cusack said that seeking help with his mental health problems required real bravery.

“It is an act of courage and strength, not weakness, to admit you are struggling. It is an act of courage to seek help. It is an act of courage to face up to your problems.”

* If you need help, there are many groups available to assist.

Pieta House may be contacted at 01 601000.

The Samaritans may be contacted at 1850 609090

Console may be contacted at 1800 201 890

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