Life Mental Health

Wednesday 28 September 2016

Eoghan McDermott: 'I went through a period of self-harming. I broke up with a girlfriend and I didn't handle it well'

Eoghan McDermott (33) is a broadcaster with a degree in politics and Irish. He is a co-host on the TV show 'The Voice of Ireland' and also presents a radio programme on 2fm. Born in Dublin, at present he lives in Knocklyon with his parents

Published 30/05/2016 | 02:30

Eoghan McDermott
Eoghan McDermott

I'm a bit of a night owl and as a result, I get up at 9.30am. I've recently moved back from London, where I lived for three-and-a-half years, so I'm back in the family home for the moment. I get up and have breakfast with my parents. It's lovely being back with them, because it's for a very finite period of time. I've just got sale-agreed on a house. I'm at the age where I really enjoy the company of my parents, and I talk to them more as friends than as parents. I never have an appetite in the morning, so I usually have an apple and a glass of water.

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I used to read the papers, but now I just scroll down the phone and go through any number of sites and my own Twitter feed. If there is anything meaty or salacious, I'll email it to myself and it's there when I arrive into work in 2fm, where I do the Drivetime show, five days a week, from 4pm until 7pm. It's occasionally silly and occasionally serious. We're very influenced by American entertainment and the way they do pop-culture politics. I let that colour the way I do the show. I'm a big fan of Jon Stewart.

If I've time in the mornings, I'll run down for a quick swim in the local pool. I find it the most pleasant way to exercise because it wakes you up, works out all of your muscles and when you get out, you feel refreshed. Then I have a quick shower, get in the car and go to RTE. Any time I do any form of exercise, no matter what anxieties or stresses are floating around, I always find that these are infinitely lighter afterwards. I think everybody should be massively conscious of even doing a little bit for their own internal well-being, if nothing else.

I do a lot of one-off gigs and hosting things and seminars in schools, so if there is not something there that needs to be covered, I'll go straight into work and prep the radio show. I usually get into RTE between 11am and 12pm. I'll have a sit-down meeting with the team. We'll look for some chunky stories and nice guests. We have landed some big guests in the last while. A few weeks ago, we had Adam Clayton. Members of U2 are notoriously hard to get hold of, but I was doing a mental-health campaign and Adam was involved in it too. He was very open about how he had succumbed to drugs and alcohol in the past. I have had my own mental-health issues too.

A while ago, I was asked to be an ambassador for Pieta House, for no other reason than that I was doing The Voice of Ireland, and if you have someone from the telly supporting your campaign, you might get an extra story in the paper. When I got to know all the great work they did [helping to prevent suicide and self-harm], I felt a little disingenuous being involved without being honest about my own situation. So I did a little YouTube video-confessional about a period I went through about six years ago.

I was in a good place in my life in terms of work. I was hosting a drive-time radio show on a famous London station, Xfm [now Radio X]. But I had just broken up with a long-term girlfriend. She moved country to pursue her studies, and then I moved country to take the radio gig. I had never had any kind of emotional adversity before and I just didn't handle it well. I thought that this was going to be a long-term relationship and then, when it ended, I found it very difficult to process, and that manifested itself negatively. I went through a period of self-harming and a little spate of depression. I was a bit withdrawn in myself. And also, I was in a new place, so I wasn't surrounded by my regular family and friends. I'd just moved city, and it was much easier to mask this stuff. I had a lot of distractions and my life was very busy and exciting. I enjoyed that, but it was in the quiet moments when I'd drift off somewhere else and self-harm.

In the end, I opened up to a friend who was in a similar break-up situation, and he gave me great advice. Once you make that breakthrough by talking about it, the world becomes a much less daunting place. Ever since then, I have taken care of my mental health, and now I feel very resilient.

I get asked to endorse a lot of stuff, and I say no to pretty much loads of it, but this Coca-Cola Thank You Fund is different. It's a fund of €130,000 for north and south of the island to help foster talent and also help the well-being of young people. Given my own experiences, anything that encourages a young person in a passion they have found or that improves their self-esteem is a good thing.

I was at Funderland over the Christmas, queueing to go on a roller coaster. There was a girl in front of me, I'd say she was 13, and I saw that she was self-harming. I could see it on her arm. I wanted to give her a massive hug and say, 'Listen, you'll be OK'. This is the first generation of young people who have grown up with mobile phones, so their normality is that they are not physically interacting with people as much.

When we were kids, after we did our homework, we would go out to meet our friends. There was only the landline in the house, and if you wanted to see your friends, you had to physically talk to them. That probably doesn't happen any more, and maybe it should. You can't stop the march of progress with technology, but it has created its own set of problems and self-esteem hurdles.

During the day, I grab a quick snack in work. I love doing the radio show, especially the spontaneity of it all. When it's over, I might have a beer with my colleagues. In the evenings, I read fiction or I might go to a gig. One of the perks of this job is that I get a lot of invitations. I often stay up quite late and catch up on TV shows like Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad. I usually go to sleep around 2am. I always sleep better if I've exercised that day.

In conversation with Ciara Dwyer

Eoghan McDermott is ambassador for the €130,000 Coca-Cola Thank You Fund. Applications can be made online before June 7, see coca-cola.ie/thankyou

RTE's Eoghan McDermott is an ambassador for Pieta House. Photo: Naoise Culhane.
RTE's Eoghan McDermott is an ambassador for Pieta House. Photo: Naoise Culhane.

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