Saturday 16 December 2017

'You don't open a business to have to close it down' - Entrepreneur (28) on his dark battle with depression after business failure

Author Cathal O'Reilly has penned his first book 'A Funny Thing About Depression'
Author Cathal O'Reilly has penned his first book 'A Funny Thing About Depression'
'A Funny Think About Depression' by Cathal O'Reilly
Patricia Murphy

Patricia Murphy

An entrepreneur has opened up about his struggle with mental health after he made the difficult decision to close down his failing business.

Clonmel man Cathal O'Reilly (28) said the closure of his business in 2013 felt like a personal failure and spun him into a battle with depression and anxiety.

Cathal (left) pictured with his brother Niall O'Reilly
Cathal (left) pictured with his brother Niall O'Reilly

The entrepreneur was just 20 when he opened up his salon supplies business in Cork City in 2010 and said he was unprepared for the impact its closure would have on his mental health, after he sadly made the decision that the business wasn't working.

"Running a business is hugely stressful. Obviously you have the usual things that are stressful, like managing the finances and the overheads, but in my case I also found managing people quite difficult.

"We have a family business at home in Clonmel, and through that I would have had experience, but when it came to managing staff I didn't. I found being the boss of staff that were older than me to be a difficult thing.

"It 2013, things just weren't working and I had to shut the business down.

"It's a difficult thing. You've put your heart into it, you've put your blood, sweat and tears into it. The fact is that nobody ever opened a business to have to shut it down.

"It's definitely a loss. There is a grief that comes with having to close down a business and I felt that grievance.

Author Cathal O'Reilly pictured with his brother Niall O'Reilly
Author Cathal O'Reilly pictured with his brother Niall O'Reilly

"Your name is associated with the business and there is a lot of pride wrapped up in its success, so when it doesn't work out it is a very emotional thing. It absolutely feels like a personal failure," he said.

Cathal said while leaving the business behind him was difficult, it was the years after that were even harder as it gave him the time to reflect on what could have been.

"The thing is when you're in the middle of the business, you don't have time to think. You're making decisions, but you are so busy trying to save it you don't have time to reflect. It's only after you close down that you have that time. You start thinking about those decisions and torturing yourself, wondering if you had made better choices would it have worked out the same," he said.

Cathal said he became very unwell with depression and anxiety and he made the decision to seek treatment in 2015 in St Patrick's Hospital in Dublin, which specialises in mental health.

Author Cathal O'Reilly has penned his first book 'A Funny Thing About Depression'
Author Cathal O'Reilly has penned his first book 'A Funny Thing About Depression'

The UCC student said it was difficult to admit he needed help and said he had an inaccurate perception of mental health treatment centres.

"Getting help was a hard thing to do because there is such a stigma around mental health," said Cathal.

"I have such a supportive family, but it still is difficult to let them in and to tell them that you're struggling.

"I was reluctant to go into hospital because I had these preconceptions about mental health institutions as so many of us do. They're portrayed as quite scary places, particularly in film.

'A Funny Think About Depression' by Cathal O'Reilly
'A Funny Think About Depression' by Cathal O'Reilly

"However, I found the experience a positive one. Once I was there I found that I was part of a community of people all going through the same thing and in that way you share a common bond and an understanding. It's a huge support system which is comforting," he said.

Cathal is now going into his final year of Commerce in UCC, but said it was tough to get back to his life after leaving the support system in St. Patrick's.

"When I came out of hospital, I was really lucky to have a very supportive family and such supportive parents. Sadly, some people don't have that.

"In hospital you're so supported and even though I did have that fantastic support system when I got home, it was still isolating, you do feel a little bit alone," he said.

The Commerce student has written a book about his experience, 'A Funny Thing About Depression', in the hopes of helping other people through their struggles with mental health.

"I started my book in hospital. It began as a sort of journal. Finishing it I felt a sense of accomplishment, and I've gotten great feedback, which has been great. When I was unwell, I found a lot of the books out there to be quite big and intimidating and I thought by sharing my own experience, I might be able to help someone else," said Cathal.

The Clonmel man has also completed a course in psychotherapy and counselling, and hopes to marry this with his business degree and work as a life coach in the future.

However, he still feels Ireland has a long way to go when it comes to accepting and de-stigmatising mental illness.

"When you're struggling with mental health you feel guilty. You feel guilty for having this illness and for what you're putting everyone through. It's not something like cancer, where you feel like you can be open about it to the community, or go down the the local over a pint and say, 'I have depression'.

"I don't think we've turned that corner in terms of breaking down that stigma in Ireland just yet," he said.

'A Funny Thing About Depression' is available on paperback and Kindle from

If you have been affected by the issues raised in this article please contact the Samaritans on 116123 for support or visit the website on

Pieta House can be contacted on 1800 247 247.  For more information on Pieta House visit

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