Ex-Ireland and Munster rugby star David Corkery has urged the public to reach out to anyone suffering from depression — after revealing a “chance encounter” effectively saved his own life.
The 28-times capped Cork- born international made the call for greater mental health awareness during an extensive interview on RTÉ Radio yesterday.
Speaking on The John Murray Show, Corkery who was prominent in Irish rugby in the 1990s, said after retirement and the death of his father by suicide he fell into a “very deep, dark hole” that crippled him emotionally.
The situation at one point led to the one-time Munster star suddenly finding himself unemployed as the sport moved from the amateur to professional era. He was on the dole and believing he had “no reason to live”.
However, after a chance encounter with a former Cork Constitution teammate — who saw the signs and reached out to him despite being someone “I didn’t know that well” — Corkery turned his life around.
Corkery, who had a “tough” public exterior and often played with broken fingers, said the experience has shown him people need to act when they know something is wrong, before it is too late.
“Looking back now I would’ve suffered from depression as a player in my heyday,” the ex-Ireland international explained. “When it [his career] ended when I was 27, it was like somebody switching the light off overnight. I didn’t want to be burdening people afterwards, but it was a very lonely place to be, the drop-off was huge. It was like walking off a cliff.
“It got to the stage where I felt I was very worthless on this planet. I had no self-esteem, I felt everything I did was wrong and it was a very dark hole that got deeper and deeper, and deeper. I was unemployed about nine months. I could see my father in myself because my girls [twin eight-year-olds] were coming in to me in the morning seeing me just lying in bed and it was demoralising.
“I saw [psychology] as a worthless adventure, because I saw the way it had worked with him. It turned him into a zombie. I had this big image of a hard-teak rugby player, so I tried to beat it myself, but the demons just got worse.
“But then I met a colleague of mine at Cork Con, Hugh O’Donovan. I was just talking to him and he asked me how I was and could see in my eyes, me welling-up. It was a cry for help.”
He said the short, chance conversation ended and both men went on to watch the match.
However, a couple of weeks later, Mr O’Donovan — who has trained as a psychologist and lectures in UCC — contacted Corkery “out of the blue”.
“Our 10 minute-chat turned into a three-hour chat.
“For someone like Hugh, who I didn’t know that well, to pick up a phone and think of Dave Corkery as someone who needed help, because he could see the signs . . . It made me feel important, that someone actually cared about me.
“It was huge, and certainly the phone call changed my life.”
Over the coming months, Corkery said he slowly recovered to the extent that he is now working in a “dream” job with a sports medicine firm.
Stressing the need for anyone concerned about someone to reach out to them as they may not be able to do so themselves, Corkery said no one wants to knock on a door and say: “I let him down, I should’ve done more.”
“This is a message to the people on the outside [of the dark hole]. Someone picking up the phone literally changed my life.”
The full 30-minute interview with David Corkery on The John Murray Show can be found at www.rte.ie.
l24/7 1Life suicide prevention helpline: 1800-247-100.
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