Only A Game? - Talking about depression is better than any goal

Liam Coyle. LS40-119KM
Liam Coyle. LS40-119KM

Liam Coyle was one of the first people I worked with when I started my job with The Derry Journal.

Liam used to write a column for The Sunday Journal and it was my responsibility each week to take his copy, read it and place it on a page.

I always enjoyed Liam’s column and I found his relentless bear bating of Manchester United hilarious. Not only did Liam know his stuff when it came to football but he had a great sense of humour too.

Like many of you, I was shocked when I heard Liam’s interview with BBC Radio Foyle last week.

In the interview Liam spoke about how he struggled with depression and even considered taking his own life after he suffered a career threatening injury when he was 22 year-old.

The vast majority of people were supportive of what Liam had done but there were a few out there who questioned whether Liam was depressed at all.

Depression comes in all shape and sizes. It can be paralysing, destructive and can take lives. Everyone in Derry is an expert when it comes to mental health but to the people who questioned Liam’s story I would say to them, when you’re depressed you think irrationally and thinking about taking your own life is pretty irrational don’t you think?

I’ve used this sports column to talk about depression in sport in the past yet every time I feel the need to revisit the topic I find that nothing has really changed.

Depression is as serious as any other life threatening illness. It can rob a person of their hopes, dreams and ambitions.

Depression can stop people getting out of bed in the morning and unless you have experienced this feeling then how can you claim to know what it is like?

It’s utterly unhelpful to tell someone who is depressed to shake themselves out of it. Would you tell someone with cancer to shake themselves out of it?

Like all illnesses, depression does not discriminate who it affects. Whether you’re a 22 year-old footballer on the cusp of greatness or a 75 year-old woman living alone, depression can grab hold of you.

The only way people like Liam Coyle who suffer from depression will ever be saved is by more investment into mental health. Not only does this issue require financial support but it needs society to think differently about those with depression.

We have a duty of care to make sure that the people in our lives are okay. If you know someone who has or you think might be depressed then why not try talking to them? Sometimes talking about a problem can help someone with depression feel much better. The bizarre thing is that the problem remains the same but not suffering in silence makes a massive difference.

Liam Coyle was brave to go on BBC Radio Foyle and talk about his own experience of depression - it must have been very difficult for him because despite his best intentions some people will see him differently.

Liam Coyle was revered by Derry City fans for his amazing skills on the pitch and his goal scoring record but what he did on BBC Radio Foyle last Tuesday morning is much more important and, in my opinion, much more significant than any goal. Liam Coyle, I salute you!