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"He saved my life': Former GAA player in line to receive top award after helping a student combat depression

Off The Ball
Off The Ball

02:35 21 Nov 2015


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A former student in Kerry has taken to a youth empowering website to tell the world about the invaluable assistance she received from Aodán Mac Gearailt in overcoming depression.

Writing on spunout.ie, Hannah Hennessey documents her experience of dealing with depression and the impact that the All-Ireland winning defender had on her recovery. As a result of her post, Aodán Mac Gearailt, who is the principal at Meán Scoil Nua an Leith Triúigh in Kerry, could be awarded the People of the Year ‘Everyday Hero’ award this coming December. 

In her post, Hennessey recounts her days as a Transition Year student when the symptoms of depression began to gradually manifest. She wanted a life of isolation, her passion for GAA had dwindled and her demoralised attitude to life was causing her parents to despair. 

Perhaps it was their mutual affiliation with Gaelic Games that accounted for the connection between Mac Gearailt and the dispirited student, but from their first meeting, Hennessey knew she had found someone she could confide in.

'That first day of meeting him, Aodán told me he was there for me, he told me I could go to him anytime to talk to. I didn’t know what to make of this as my previous principal never acknowledged my obvious struggle despite being in a school of only 120 pupils.

'I was overwhelmed by Aodán’s support from there on in. He would check on me daily, his office door was always open for me to go in.  No matter how busy he was, he always made time for me. On the days when I was thrown on a seat in the corner by his office crying for no reason or not able to talk or stay in class, he was there with a cup of tea.'

'There were many days when I was in such a dark hole in school that he would try to reason with me and I would be nasty to him and make him feel awful.  It kills me now to think how nasty I was to him when he ultimately was trying to save my life.  If he’d ring my mom and tell her I wasn’t well at all and contemplating suicide then I would come into school the next day and hate him so much and make sure he knew. I couldn’t understand why he would betray me like that until now that I am well again, I know he did it to protect me and my family.'

Four years on from the beginning of her struggle with mental illness, Hannah Hennessey knows the true value of Aodán Mac Gearailt's contribution to her recovery and is forever indebted to his selfless acts for her.

'I can never thank Aodán enough for what he has done for me since I first met him. He saved my life. I can never, ever repay him for this as much as I want to. He got me to express myself by writing my thoughts down and talking more. All of the words written above don’t do him enough justice.  He deserves to be acknowledged.  As far as I am concerned he should be made a saint for his patience, care, encouragement and strength he shows and passes to me amongst others.  I never made it easy for him yet he never once gave up on me.'

The People of the Year Awards TV programme will be aired on RTE One on Saturday, December 5.

 

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