A TOP GAA official has spoken out about how vicious online abuse over his weight led him to attempting suicide.
Patrick Nelis said he was “generally pleased” with his performance after he took charge of Summerhill’s victory over Na Fianna in last year’s Meath county final.
Just weeks later however, he was lucky to survive a suicide attempt after receiving a torrent of abuse online.
Mr Nelis said as a referee he is accustomed to receiving abuse from the stands.
“You hear a lot of stuff, believe me there is some stuff that I have heard being thrown at me that I would turn around and laugh to myself and sort of say fair play to them that is a good one,” he told Pat Kenny on Newstalk radio.
He said he never imagined he would be dealing with depression until the end of a long-term relationship left him struggling to cope.
The Twitter abuse he received after the county final affected him badly and he said he remembered sitting at home in floods of tears reading over comments like “the fat, red hamster” again and again.
“At the time I was getting depressed, it wasn’t helping and I think then when you are vulnerable. It really took a toll on me that time,” he revealed.
Originally from Tyrone, Mr Nelis moved to Meath in 2006 joining Kells club Kilmainham. He praised the GAA for the support he received during a difficult time in his life.
He said people “don’t know what is in people’s minds or what they have going on in their personal life and should think twice before posting anything online that could affect someone’s mental health”.
Mr Nelis called on anyone who is experiencing depression to speak out and ask for help.
“The first five or six weeks in hospital I realised, I’m coming out of this, there is more to life. There are people there to talk to, there is help out there,” he said.
“There are too many people that won’t speak out and I think that is a bad thing. People are ashamed, I thought the same thing. I was embarrassed at the time. Look, it is a sad state but at the same time it is an illness.”
He said he had to go online to challenge his own abusers after the news of his attempted suicide originally broke.
“Everybody saw it and they didn’t hide their identity, I knew some of them. I had to go and private message people and tell them I didn’t like it and I would prefer if they didn’t do it,” he said.
“That is just the way I am you know. I treat everybody the same,” he said.