‘I stayed in my bedroom for eight months’- Taxi driver founds lifesaving initiative after crippling battle with depression
An Irish taxi driver has opened up about his personal battle with mental illness, which spurred him to set up a lifesaving group aimed at preventing suicide in his local area.
Kilkenny man Derek Devoy founded Taxi Watch, an initiative which has equipped local taxi drivers with the necessary skills to be able to handle a situation in which a person might be in distress.
The husband and dad opened up about his own four year battle with depression, which inspired him to help others struggling with mental illness.
“I was in an accident in 2010,” Derek told Sunday AM on TV3.
“A drunk driver ran into the back of me and damaged my back.
“I ended up in hospital. I got surgery on my back and after I came out of hospital I went downhill. I felt like everything was getting to me and that everything was getting on top of me. I went for a second operation and I just got worse. The third time I came out of hospital I was just gone.
Derek revealed that he hid his battle from his wife and children because he was worried about unloading his problems on them.
“I stayed in my bedroom for eight months. I couldn’t leave. I wasn’t able.
“I didn’t know what was wrong. I hid it from everybody. I could get up in the morning with the kids. I’d get dressed for work and they’d get dressed for school but as soon as they left I would just get back into bed.
“I’d get up at 5.55pm before my wife came home. I was crying all day and watching TV. I didn’t want to see the kids or do anything. I knew I needed to go and get help,” he said.
Derek revealed that he considered taking his own life during his darkest days before he finally sought help from his GP.
“I thought of everything. There was another suicide in the area and I had heard about it. What happened was the person had taken their life and their partner then lost their house. I was thinking if I insured the house everyone would be fine.
“After I went to counselling, it turned my life around,” he said.
Derek was inspired to set up Taxi Watch when he had to come to the aid of two people attempting to take their own lives in Kilkenny on the same night.
“The first night I was back to work I came across a fellow on the bridge who was threatening to go in.
“There were lads there talking to him and I got out and joined them. I told him ‘Look I know what you’re going through. I’ve gone through it for the last couple of years myself’. He got into the car with me and the Guards came and took him away. An hour later there was another person on the bridge in Kilkenny,” said Derek.
The mental health advocate applied for SafeTalk training within the HSE, which improved his confidence in his ability to communicate with people in distress.
He then convinced 15 local taxi drivers to take on the training, and the group now patrol the local area in an effort to save lives.
“I went off and I got training because if I had said something differently to those people what would have happened then. I got training in SafeTalk. I thought it was great so I asked 15 other drivers to join me in Kilkenny and they did and we’ve never looked back. Each one of us got the training.
“Now we keep an eye on the river. There’s certain spots in Kilkenny that we would know of where people would go. We get out and talk to them and take them to Teac Tom,” he said.
The taxi driver revealed that Teac Tom, a mental health service which provides 24-hour counselling, is a more effective environment that A&E, where people are often left waiting for hours.
“A lot of people have drink taken and it can give them the courage to take their own life. In Teac Tom they get immediate help, but in A&E it can be hours.
“I don’t want any family to go through that. Nobody should have to bury a child,” he said.