Shane Carthy is inspirational figure - perhaps it's only the past 6 months or so that the wider Irish public have become aware of the fact. Before Christmas, the Dublin footballer published a remarkable blog post detailing his mental health battle. Most people wouldn't have known that Carthy was suffering from depression while he was a member of the Dublin U21 squad back in 2014. Carthy spent eleven weeks in St Patrick's Hospital that year as he tried to cope with crippling depression. In the blog post, Carthy recounts his struggles to discuss his feelings with his loved ones, and how his immediate family, as well Dessie Farrell and Mick Galvin of the Dubliln U21 managerial team helped him
This year, Shane is an ambassador for Pieta House. Ahead of Darkness Into Light next Saturday morning, Shane spoke to us about the reaction to his blog post, the role exercise and sport played in the rebuilding of his life, and why talking is the beginning of finding the solution for anyone worried about their mental health.
On why he published the blog post and the reaction it received:
"It [his mental health battle] came out publicly with my first public speaking engagement in 2015, and has spread from other engagements I've done since.. I wanted to get my message out there to a wider scale. The blog then came into my mind because these days everyone's on social media and you're only a tap away from anything. So I decided to go with that. The response was absolutely overwhelming. I was initially apprehensive obviously about putting it out there. I didn't know how it was going to be perceived but I've been overwhelmed by the positive response it's received. I get messages from 10-year-olds to 80-year-olds coming up to me on the street. It's resonated not only with people in my own age group, but older people as well."
On the role sport and physical activity played in his recovery:
"Sport was my crutch, it was my medication, so to speak, for years. Whether it was playing gaelic football 5-6 times per week or a walk or a swim or some kind of physical exercise, I found that really worked for me. Even when I went into the hospital the doctors and nurses said 'what do you want? What can we do for you?' and I just said 'I need an open field'. I knew that worked. I knew I needed to get out there and find some for physical exercise, whatever that may be. I was eventually granted that wish. My mom and dad and my three sisters would every day come in and one of them would take me to the Phoenix Park and I'd run around for 40-45 minutes. That was a huge relief for me. Obviously it was just one form of therapy amongst all the other therapies I was going through, but it was so important to go out there, get a sweat on and feel better about myself thereafter."
On what Darkness Into Light is like:
I first walked Darkness Into Light in Malahide in 2015. People are there for different reasons but actually all basically the same reason. It was amazing. And then I went to Phoenix Park and that was even more mindblowing. The scale of it is was so much bigger. You could feel the raw emotion in the air. So many people are there for so many different reasons. It was just amazing. It was so nice to have the friends and famliy who stood by me there with me, and it was so nice to walk it with them. My mom and dad, my three sisters, the whole lot.
On the power of talking:
People always ask me for advice, and they think it's a magic answer, and I very simply say, 'the foundation of where I rebuilt my life is essentially from talking. Whether it was to my mom or dad or Dessie Farrell, it was saying, "Listen, I'm going through a very difficult time here. I don't know what it is, I can't make sense of it'. But it was from there that I was able to clear the cloud that was in the back of my head.
I'll never shy away from the fact that I still have my good and bad days, but thankfully my bad days aren't full of despair. And with that comes the comfort of being able to say 'I'm having a bad day' and maybe going for a run. Because I'm filled with the resilience that comes from knowing how to deal with mental health and how to express those things, rather than just hold everything in, which is what I'd done for years, which was far too long.