'I went out for a walk and the whole of Lismore were out looking for me' – GAA star Maurice Shanahan on suicidal thoughts
Hurling star Maurice Shanahan has said he tried to take his own life while going through severe mental health difficulties last year because he “couldn’t see any other way out of it at the time”.
The Waterford all-star has opened up about the depression which has afflicted him and spoken about his suicide attempts in 2014 in an attempt to encourage others going through similar issues to talk about their problems.
Maurice Shanahan was speaking to WLRFM’s Deise AM show on Monday morning after featuring at a health conference on Saturday which was organised by the Waterford GAA county board and Genzyme.
He said he first became depressed last year and was thinking about taking his own life “for a long time” before attempting suicide. “I got home one Sunday evening and I took an overdose.”
About an hour later he texted his sister because he didn’t want his parents to find him dead in his room. “It would have been very hard on her to get that text. She was away doing something that night and when she got the text it was unbelievable what I put her through, and all my family.”
What he remembered next was waking up in a hospital bed the following morning, but said his depression remained. “I literally told my mother and my father and my whole family that I wished I was dead, I wished I wasn’t there… I remember one evening, I was sitting inside in my kitchen and my family were there and one or two others, friends. I told them that, no matter what, I won’t be here in two weeks’ time… That was wicked hard for them to hear. That was going through my head at the time, I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t want to live.”
He did attempt suicide again some time after leaving hospital, he said. “One evening I went out for a walk and the whole of Lismore were out looking for me and they found me in time.”
It was a very hard time for his parents, he told interviewer Kevin Casey on WLR. “They didn’t want to leave me out of their sight. They took the car keys off me and everything, because they didn’t want to leave me out of their sight. I’m very grateful to them now because, if they left me off, I mightn’t be here to tell the story.”
The Lismore native said his brother Dan, himself a former hurler of the year and current selector with the Waterford team, became like “a bodyguard” to him last year. “He wouldn’t leave me out of his sight because he was afraid, probably, of what I’d do. My sisters as well.”
A local woman, Julie Landers, put him in touch with former Cork hurler Conor Cusack of the GPA who has himself spoken openly about his own problems with depression while the GPA’s counsellor in Waterford also helped him.
“It all took off from there. Conor was great to me,” Shanahan said. “I listened to Conor because he was a sportsperson and he went through it himself. He could tell me a lot of stories that felt the same for me… For me listening to that, it kind of hit home, the people I was hurting, but above all I was hurting myself. I just wanted the help then.”
The Lismore hurling manager Sean Pender, who is also principal of the local national school, visited him at home every day as soon as school was over, to talk to him, and eventually he returned to hurling and got huge support from Waterford and the entire hurling community, he said. Shanahan returned to the Waterford team for the 2015 season and ended up winning an All-Star award.
“You’re never alone, always talk. Even now, I still have bad days but I know I can talk to people and I have great people around me and I don’t bottle it up any more, because if I do, who knows I could go back to square one.”