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Meet Patrick

My name is Patrick and I’m originally from Clady in Tyrone. I have been living in Tallaght for the last two years. Prior to moving here I lived in Meath for almost 10 years.

Gaelic football has always been a massive part of my life, I played for my local club at home and then I played with a team in Meath.
After I got sent off a few times the Meath County Board chairman at that time said to me “why don’t you take up the refereeing?”
I told him I’d do a better job than half of them out there!

This was 2009. The first couple of years reffing was a bit ropey, made a few mistakes, then in 2011 I got the Meath Junior Championship Final.
After that I broke into Senior Football. In the middle of 2012 I broke up with my ex partner and was getting limited access to my daughter, there was a lot of aul aggro. I just wasn’t feeling right so I went to a GP who gave me medication.

Going into 2013 I started to notice I was piling on the weight. I didn’t feel right but I was still refereeing, it was the only thing keeping me going.
I noticed I was getting more and more nasty comments about my weight on Twitter and other social media sites.

Towards the end of 2013 I got chosen to ref the Meath Senior county final which was a huge honour.
There was a massive crowd, it was live on TV, the game went well but I didn’t enjoy it like I should have.
In my headspace I wasn’t ready.
The depression lifted a bit leading up to the match but I knew myself it wouldn’t last, I knew the buzz wouldn’t last.
My mother watched the game on TG4. She knew then something was wrong. What’s with the weight, she wondered? She knew I always kept fit.

Looking back I shouldn’t have reffed that game. After the game I started receiving abuse on line, stuff about my weight, my private life. My daughter. It could very personal.
Some of it was so bad I wouldn’t even repeat it.
One individual on the losing team messaged me on Facebook to tell me I was “poison”.

In the weeks after the final I stayed in the house, I was reading and rereading all this stuff and I kept breaking down and crying. I was thinking “this isn’t normal.”
I didn’t want to go back to the doctor because I didn’t want any more medication.

I was isolating myself from everybody, my friends, I wouldn’t go out, I had my phone turned off.
Three weeks after the final I attempted suicide. I took an overdose. I just couldn’t take the personal problems any more.
When I took the overdose I sent a message to a friend which didn’t make any sense he knew something wasn’t right. He had a key, came around, found me on the bathroom floor. I was out cold. I was taken to Navan Hospital. They told me I was a lucky man. What I took was enough to kill two people.

I was sectioned for a while and then was in a clinic for a few months. I started to notice as the weeks were going by I was getting better and better.
When I got out I started a new job. If it wasn’t for my club in Meath I don’t know what I would have done, they were very good to me.

Last year I had a bit of a relapse. I was self harming and one very well known big figure in the Meath county board, who I won’t name, was ignorant to me and showed how the attitude to mental illness still hasn’t changed.
He said: “If you want to throw a wobbler again, I don’t want to know.” I just said to him: “Is it any wonder people won’t come out and talk with attitudes like yours.”

Before all this happened, you could say anything to me, call me what you like, then I started to dwell on things too much.
I think it was because partly of the break-up, it was a big factor. Then the online abuse probably triggered something in my head.
Up to 2012, I was always a bubbly, happy person having the craic.

In 2014 I set up a Facebook page “Patrick Nelis On Suicide Awareness and Depression” to try and help other people who may be going through the same things I did and the amount of private messages I have been receiving is unbelievable.

It’s got very busy this year for some reason. There is a suicide epidemic in this country and then you see the mental health budget being cut to shreads.

I think there should be a 24/7 mental health service. Not in A and E, but a separate unit.
Last year when I had the relapse I spent 26 hours in A and E which is not right, is it any wonder people are killing themselves?

Of all the organisations that work in this area I think Pieta House are the best, they’re absolutely brilliant.
I’m back refereeing now and I’m in better form, that relapse was a blip.
I’m doing what I used to do which is stand up and fight.

The reason there are so many suicides in Ireland is because people are scared to reach out.
The advice I would give to anybody who is even having a bad time is always speak to a friend or contact my page, we’ll get you in touch with Pieta House.
There is help there, reach out.
I can’t say enough about the goodness of people who helped me, friends, doctors, nurses, people in Kilmainham GAA Club.
There are so many people willing to help you, don’t suffer in silence.

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Padraig Conlon
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