Waterford hurler Maurice Shanahan has opened up on his battle with depression, revealing how his life was “nearly taken” last year.
The 25-year-old, who last night picked up his first All- Star award, informed Waterford manager Derek McGrath last Christmas that he wouldn’t be returning to the Déise set-up in 2015 such was his struggle with depression.
“Tonight is a special night for all the lads who got nominated and all the lads who are getting All-Stars, but it is probably an extra special night for me because of the road I came through to get here,” he told RTÉ Radio 1’s Drivetime program yesterday.
“Last year was a bad year for me, but thankfully I am here today to tell that tale. I am here today because of my Waterford team-mates and my club Lismore, because of my family, my friends and my girlfriend. They got me through the bad times.
“I was suffering from depression, big time. It got on top of me and I couldn’t take any more of it. I started to lock myself into rooms after work. I’d go to work and when I came home, I’d lock myself into a room. I didn’t want to go out. I didn’t want to go to the hurling field. I didn’t want to do anything, I just wanted to lock myself away from it.
“I suffered for around two months before the help was given to me because my life was nearly taken. Only for that help… I knew them people were out there, but I never thought them people would understand my situation at the time. But thankfully they did.”
The Waterford full-forward singled out Lismore native Sean Prendergast and Waterford boss McGrath as two key figures in his recovery.
“The manager of the Lismore team at the time was Sean Prendergast. He is the local primary school principal below in Lismore and I could hear the bell ringing every day telling me school was finished. The minute the bell was after ringing, Sean was at my house trying to get me out, trying to get me back up to the field. For a while that didn’t work.
“Derek McGrath too was very good to me. I met Derek last Christmas and I wasn’t even going back playing hurling. ‘We won’t make any rushed decisions tonight’, he said. He said he would give me time to think about it and I said that was grand. I had no interest then, but the interest gradually came back.”
The criticism that comes with pulling on your county jersey, he added, took its toll.
“Sometimes it doesn’t hurt, but other times it does hurt. At times it gets on top of you and you’d be thinking why you bothered playing because of that, the pressure that other people put on you.”
Shanahan strongly encourages anyone suffering from a mental illness to pick up the phone and talk.
“It doesn’t matter if you play sport or not, whoever is going through a bad time, the one bit of advice I would give them is to always talk to someone. You can’t bottle it up inside because if you do, it could get the better of you. Just pick up the phone and tell a friend, tell anyone. Just talk.”
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