Monday 27 January 2020

It's time to break the taboo of depression

George Merchant (first from left) / Photo: Aware
George Merchant (first from left) / Photo: Aware
Ann Merchant / Photo: Aware

Brenda McCormick

Ann Merchant and a team of 16 ladies are doing this year's VHI Women's Mini Marathon in aid of Aware for a very personal reason

Ann Merchant speaks:

George was my younger sister, one of the four 'Blake girls' as we were known growing up. If you were lucky enough to know George, she was the loveliest person you could meet, a kind and gentle soul with a broad smile and a hearty laugh.

George was the one we relied on to remind us of birthdays, anniversaries and other important family events, a thoughtful person who adored her family. She was the most loving mother, daughter, sister and wife you could ever wish for. But not many people outside of our family knew how she battled with depression for most of her adult life - she struggled to keep going sometimes and fought hard for so many years to overcome it.

I was a year ahead of George in school. She was always a tiny girl growing up and I was an overprotective older sister. If she was upset in school, I would be summoned to her classroom to comfort her. One time, we were performing the Wizard of Oz and I was the Wicked Witch and I was called to the classroom, the costume had all of the girls in stitches laughing and George was so proud her big sister was in the play.

The last memory I have of George is my hen weekend in Dublin - I was married just four weeks before George passed away. That weekend, George and I shared a bedroom and a double bed, as we often did as kids. Tragically, on March 21, 2014, she passed away.

For our family, being able to support AWARE in George's memory has given us a positive way to remember our much-loved sister, and hopefully we will be helping others to cope with this illness and going some way to breaking that taboo.

I've been astounded by the number of friends and colleagues who have spoken to me about their own battles with depression since George's death, feeling it's not something they can admit to living with. We all have to do what we can to allow people the help and support they need to live with this debilitating illness - AWARE enables them to get that support.

I've done the Vhi Women's Mini Marathon three times and this year, we are a team of 16 ladies in total, all family and friends of George and ranging in age and ability. Our youngest member is my niece Kellie, aged 14. My mother and aunt both turn 61 this year and are part of our team too. My aunty Mary runs regularly, but my mam has never done anything like this before. She is really looking forward to doing this positive event in her daughter's memory.

Depression is still such a taboo subject, even though it kills an average of 500 people a year in Ireland. Providing support for those suffering with depression, and vital information on how to cope living with it, is critical.

AWARE is a hugely important charity to those people and the families of those living with depression.

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