'Our family's only comfort is that Niall's death has helped others'
THE family of Galway hurler Niall Donohue, who died tragically earlier this year, have told how they have since been inundated with calls and letters from others speaking out about their own battles with depression.
Niall McDonagh, a first cousin of the young hurler who gave a touching eulogy at his funeral, said people throughout the country had reached out to the family after they spoke out about Niall's suicide, urging others to talk about their worries.
Niall was found dead at his home at Ballyturin, Co Galway, on October 23 last, just two days before he was due to celebrate turning 23 years old.
Two months after the death of the young hurler, his family and friends are still trying to cope with their loss.
"Everybody, the family and the whole Kilbeacanty community are still finding it hard, but that is understandable. How could it be any other way?
"The outpouring of support has been energising but at the same time we have to deal with the harsh reality of what has happened," said Mr McDonagh.
"We are still trying to adjust to a life without Niall, which was never going to be an easy task," explains his cousin.
He told how he had found strength in the words of Holocaust-survivor Viktor Frankl, "when we are unable to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves".
The young career guidance teacher also revealed how his powerful words at the funeral led to a huge reaction from the public.
"It has been really positive. I've had lots of different sports personalities contacting me and people coming forward sharing their own little stories of how they have been affected by depression and suicide.
"A lot of people who I would never had known had been affected and they shared their stories. It gives me hope that it has helped someone else," he said.
Despite his loss, Mr McDonagh explained how his much-loved cousin will always be a part of his life.
"Everybody has to say goodbye to Niall in their own way and some are finding it harder than others. Everybody is at different stages. Family and friends still shed tears for Niall, but that's okay as it's showing their love for him. Grief is a journey," he said.
"I bring Niall into my everyday life, I light candles for him in a church, or remember a laugh we had.
"I have pictures of him up around the house and that brings him back to me at any stage and that's a comforting thing to know."
Mr McDonagh now wants the legacy of his cousin to be that people would be more mindful of others.
"We need to be mindful of anyone who may be isolated or struggling personally. I think we underestimate the value of a kind word, a smile, or a compliment, as they could mean the world to someone at that moment in time," he said.