When news of promising young Dublin footballer Shane Carthy’s battle with depression broke earlier this year, the outpouring of support and understanding from the entire Gaelic games community was simply astounding.
Following the shock of Galway hurler Niall Donohue’s tragic and untimely passing the previous year, the GAA community took the opportunity to rally around one of its elite sportsmen, and demonstrate how attitudes towards mental health are changing for the better in this country.
Having already secured All-Ireland medals at minor and senior level with his county, Shane was playing a pivotal role with Dublin’s Under 21 side in their quest for the 2014 title when his fine run of form was abruptly cut short at the semi-final stage.
Given his dominant performance in April’s Leinster final against Meath, many eyebrows were raised at the cultured midfielder’s absence from the panel to face Cavan two weeks later. On the eve of the 21s’ final matchup with Roscommon, the reason for Shane’s withdrawal from the squad was made public – he had been hospitalised after suffering from depression.
“There were rumours that I was injured so we just wanted to clear that out of the way. It probably showed people that it is ok not to be ok. Personally I didn’t understand the whole stigma behind it. It’s like anything else – if you’ve a broken leg, you go to hospital and get that fixed, I just thought in terms of I had a broken mind, so I’ve to get treated for that,” says DCU student Shane, who will line out for the college freshers team this year having already returned to action with his club Naomh Mearnóg.
For him, football had always been a release, and despite suffering internally for quite some time, the demanding routine of training and matches for an intercounty team acted as a distraction from the problems Shane was experiencing.
“I was constantly busy, and it was keeping my mind off things rather than sitting down and being in my own head, so it was nearly a good thing in a way that I had those distractions. But then over the last while it got that bit more difficult, and that’s when it all came to a fore.”
Although still in the recovery process, Shane is gradually becoming stronger and stronger in his outlook since leaving hospital in the middle of June. Despite admittedly being in a bad place at the time, he was still overwhelmed by the sheer level of compassion directed towards him by the public.
“It was massive, I tried to keep myself away from it at the start, but you couldn’t exactly with all the papers and everything being in front of you… It was very heartening,” he admits.
It’s an experience that the 20 year-old won’t forget anytime soon. But far from attempting to bury the memory of such a difficult ordeal, Shane sought to get a physical reminder of the lessons he’d learned about himself with a tattoo of a semi-colon on his wrist. What’s that got to do with depression, you might ask…
“A semi-colon represents a sentence where an author could have ended, but chose not to. In this case I’m the author, and the sentence is my life.
“I do have bad days like everyone else does, and I look to that knowing that I have been in a bad place, that I’ve come through it, and that it will get better,” says the sports science and health student, who is content to take things slowly for now before possibly looking at a return to the county setup around December or January.