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David Gillick opens up about suicidal thoughts after he gave up running and says ‘reach out’

After nearly two and a half years of almost suffering in silence David sought professional help.

David Gillick. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

David Gillick. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

Eugene MastersonSunday World

Today is what’s usually know as ‘Blue Monday’, which is generally considered the most depressing day of the year.

With bills piling up, the weather usually grim and people back trudging through work and college or school after recent festivities it’s a time most people are in the doldrums.

One man who knows more than most about feeling down is former athlete David Gillick, who is Ireland’s most successful sprinter and a two-time world champion.

But despite his success on the track and winning the likes of Celebrity Masterchef on TV David hit rock bottom several years ago.

Even though he was just after marrying his lovely wife Charlotte and becoming a proud father to a little boy, Oscar, something eventually snapped within the Dubliner and David even started getting suicidal thoughts, contemplating about crashing into oncoming lorries.

“When I initially retired and after the whole Masterchef thing, everyone at the time was saying ‘oh you’re doing great, you’re on the sides of buses, you’re on TV, blah blah blah’ but inside I was struggling because I didn’t have a purpose anymore. I didn’t know what I wanted to do or who I was,” he tells the Sunday World.

“I stopped running, I didn’t do any athletics because I was retired, I didn’t need to. I’d go out on a Saturday night, I didn’t need to be anywhere on a Sunday or training, it didn’t exist anymore. I thought that was the next phase.

“After a couple of months I began to kind of struggle at that and then I wasn’t content I wasn’t happy or felt good, I had no energy, I felt very down.”

After nearly two and a half years of almost suffering in silence David sought professional help.

“I heard somebody who was involved in sport and who was retired from sport through injury, they spoke out about how they were feeling. I remember hearing this and I thought ‘Jesus, that’s me’, and that’s what it took for me to make a call and talk to someone,” he recollects.

Mental health is now something which is important to him.

David Gillick. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

“Over the years since I’ve done bits with Pieta House, I’ve done bit with Aware. I’ve been quite open talking about it,” he explains.

“Any time I do talk about it it’s amazing the amount of people who reach out privately and that tells me an awful lot that’s there’s still a lot of people out there.

“Be it Blue Monday, people’s blue Monday could be every Monday, it’s not just one day in January, it could be every single Monday, it could be every single day and the reality of mental health. Sometimes just even hearing a story, because that’s what it was for me

“People talking about the benefits of exercise and how that can help. Your mental help or how you feel about yourself. Or even a pep talk.”

The 39-year-old points out that many men struggle.

“When you look at research a lot of men, as do a lot of women, bottle it up and have a fear of being judged. Sometimes lending an ear to somebody can be huge for them. It really helped me when people called it out and listened,” he stresses.

“If anybody is feeling anyway kind of downs, moods have changed or is suicidal, make that call, or reach out. Because you’ll find is, you’re not the only person, there’s other people who might be going through similar and you’re never alone.”

David grew up in Ballinteer, south Co Dublin, and fell in love with athletics after joining his local running club,

He is now a father of three young kids, Oscar (6), Olivia (4) and Louis (2) .

He loves involving his young family in sport and has recently become a brand ambassador for VHI’s Park Runs initiative.

“What happened was I went of a run in Marlay park on a Saturday morning around 2015, knew nothing about park runs,” he recollects.

Olympic runner David Gillick believes Ireland is at a crossroads health wise

“Suddenly turned a bend and there was like hundreds of people coming the opposite direction. I was like a salmon coming upstream. I was like ‘what’s this?’. Someone started shouting ‘you’re going the wrong way Gillick!’.

“Then low and behold it was a park run. So, the following week I said ‘you know what I going to go up and do this yoke’. That was my first taste of park run. I had never ran a 5k, it wasn’t to do with my training and I certainly wasn’t fit at the time.”

He urges people to not having any qualms about taking part such park runs.

“The biggest fear that stops a lot of people is the fear of what other people would think. Like ‘I’m going to be recognised’ or whatever,” he reflects.

“ So eventually I went up and nobody gave a s**t really. I ran around the park and felt good and that’s how I got into park runs, as every Saturday I had somewhere to be and improve my times.

“Through work I got involved with VHI, who partnered with park runs It’s a fantastic movement, its global and it’s great to see how it’s grown in Ireland over the last decade. There over 100 park runs in Ireland. Even last Sunday I brought my kids up to the junior park run, which is even better as you’re doing it with your kids. It’s only 2k and the kids love it.

“It’s blue Monday, in January, people have New Year resolutions. But its just starting something. The park run you can walk or crawl it.”

The runs take place every Saturday morning at 9.30am across 100 parks with 10,000 taking part.

As well as being involved in sport psychology, David is also a regular TV pundit on athletics.

“It was literally only recently I was thinking ‘I’m 40 this year’, I don’t feel 40,” he muses.

“ I probably felt older a couple of years ago, when I first retired from athletics and wasn’t doing a whole lot of activity and stuff like that. In recent years I’ve got more active. I did a Dublin marathon last year and I’m going to do another marathon this year. I cycle a good bit, so all those things help keep you young.

“I feel good health wise, I feel like I’ve energy. I suppose I’m content where I am in my life and I think that probably plays a part in it.

“But one area I probably got more into in recent times is that kind of wellbeing space and that’s kind of a lot of the stuff that I do now in terms of talking and helping around mental health, and that kind of holistic approach to life is an area that I’m interested in and something I kind of do on a regular basis.”

  • To register for a park run near you visit The Samaritans can be contacted at freephone 116123

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