A MAN who once came close to ending his life during a bout of depression ran more than 60km through the wilds of Connemara yesterday to raise awareness for a charity that encourages people to be open about mental illness.
Gary Seery (36), from Bayside, Co Dublin, was among approximately 2,500 runners taking part in yesterday's Connemara International Marathon in the west of Ireland.
The run includes a half marathon, a full marathon and a 63.2km ultra-marathon through the dramatic backdrop of Connemara's rugged scenery.
Runners of all ages, shapes, sizes and fitness levels from around the world set off from the village of Leenane, Co Galway, running past lakes, bogs, the Twelve Pins and Maam Turk mountains and other stunning scenery to raise funds for charities of their choice.
Mr Seery proudly sported a yellow 'See Change' T-shirt as he set off from the starting point at Maam's Cross yesterday morning to embark on his ultra-marathon.
The married father of three said running has been instrumental in helping him to overcome depression and he was hoping to put his skills to the ultimate endurance test yesterday to help spread the word about depression and the need to overcome society's stigma towards mental illnessess.
"This is my biggest challenge to date," he said after successfully completing the Dublin marathons in 2010 and 2008 in just over four hours.
But he said he is more interested in spreading the word about See Change -- an umbrella of more than 50 organisations promoting mental health -- than his own running time.
Like many people suffering from depression, Mr Seery said he wasn't even aware that anything was wrong when he started suffering from insomnia after switching jobs during the height of the boom.
But along with working up to 16-hour days in his highly paid, but high-stress, job, Mr Seery said he started drinking and smoking to excess and "burning the candle at both ends".
Since those dark days, he has been diagnosed with clinical depression and prescribed anti-depressants.
The medication, along with therapy and running and exercise, has allowed him to resume his normal life.
"My life is a million times better than it was," he said.
And he hopes that his honest and upfront account of his own experience with depression will encourage others to open up about similar problems and end the stigma.
Four pages of marathon results: See Sport