Life Health & Wellbeing

Monday 18 November 2019

'I wanted out': DJ Nikki Hayes opens up on overcoming her suicide attempts

Hayes (35) encourages people with suicidal thoughts to check out Turn the Tide on Suicide's (3Ts) online self help library

Jason Kennedy

After making two attempts to end her life in the past, DJ Nikki Hayes says talking to people about her mental health issues has saved her life.

In her first interview dealing in depth with her depression and body issues, the Spin 1038 DJ said the first time she tried to take her life was a call for help, but the second time she just "wanted out".

A selection of online self help leaflets on 3ts.ie.
A selection of online self help leaflets on 3ts.ie.

From the age of around 16, Nikki wasn't happy with her appearance, which led to her developing severe anxiety and anorexia. The following year, she attempted an overdose, but told her parents straight away.

"I was never happy with my looks and would go up and down in weight," the 35-year-old said.

"Talking at the time would have been the thing to do, but it just wasn't part of the plan then."

Following this incident, she received extensive counselling and was put on medication, which she said made her feel "too high". Not long after, she was ready to start college, hoping to study radio. However, her parents wanted her to study something with better job prospects.

The Bray native ended up studying law, which she hated from the beginning. She began to feel lost and her past issues began to resurface. She took her second overdose at the age of 19. She was found having seizures by her housemates, who called emergency services.

"It's hard to explain how you feel. I just couldn't see beyond that moment I had just had enough," she said.

Radio Broadcaster Nikki Hayes
Photo: Frank McGrath
Radio Broadcaster Nikki Hayes Photo: Frank McGrath
Nikki Hayes.PIC CO'R...HN

"Had I not been found by the people I was living with, I probably wouldn't be here."

The former RTE 2fm DJ said she's grateful to the doctor who told her parents about her suicide attempt. She says if it were not for her parents finding out, she would have made another suicide attempt and would be dead by now.

"I'm really glad the doctor did breach [my privacy] and told my parents to come and get me," she said.

"My parents came straight up on a bus to find me"

The next time Nikki's mental health was severely affected was in 2007 after the death of her much-loved father Pat, who had cancer. Although Nikki organised the funeral and dealt with the plot, she said she did not accept his death. She was coped badly around a next year, going out every night, self-harming and drinking too much.

"I denied the fact that he was dead. I went off the rails a year later. I was around that time I thought 'Oh my God' and I had a breakdown. I had to go and get help," she said.

"I had to come to terms with the fact that I have mental health issues and probably will for the rest of my life. I was so in denial. I wanted to be 'normal'. I realise now, you can't quit."

Now, Nikki has a life she never though she would have. She's engaged to soldier Frank Black, with whom she had baby Farrah. After having Farrah, Nikki suffered through a short period of post-natal depression, which came as a shock to the DJ.

Nikki was later told post-natal depression is common among mothers who had previously battled depression.

"[Farrah] is amazing. Every time I look at her, I think 'I want you to be everything that I wasn't'. I want her to be confident. I want her to love herself.

"I have an amazing fiancé who is so supportive. I love him to bits," she said.

After years of dealing with her own demons and vaguely talking about her issues, Nikki decided to go into details about her struggles, in the hope it  helps others.

"It doesn't make me less of a person because I have suffered from mental health issues. I tried to take my life twice and I've self harmed, but I have a lot to live for," she said.

"I wanted people to see you can feel like it's the end of the road, but you can come back."

"I'm never happy with how I look. I constantly want to lose weight and am not entirely happy with the body that I'm in."

The mental health advocate is encouraging people with suicidal thoughts to check out Turn the Tide on Suicide's (3Ts) online self help library.

For more information visit 3ts.ie. If you are affected by depression or suicidal thoughts, please call the Samaritans on  116 123 in the Republic of Ireland and 08457 90 90 90 in Northern Ireland and the UK.

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