Antrim 'keeper Chris Kerr shares his story at Brussels conference
FROM the scene of battle in Creggan to discussing his struggle with depression at the seat of European power, it has been an eventful few days in the life of Antrim and St Gall’s goalkeeper Chris Kerr.
It may be too soon to speak about the Milltown men’s heartbreaking last-gasp Antrim championship defeat to Cargin last Saturday night, but Kerr was in Brussels yesterday to address the European Brain Council as sporting stars from across Europe were invited to mark world mental health day.
Earlier this year Kerr penned a powerful blog called 'In the name of the father', detailing his depression and anxiety after losing his dad Pat to cancer in 2013.
"I felt I didn’t want to be here any more and I couldn’t keep it under wraps,” he wrote at the time.
“I was thinking of suicide. I had enough of living like this and feeling like this. This was a serious kick up the arse. What the hell was I doing? One of the hardest things was telling my mummy that I was feeling like this.
"I became withdrawn from my family. From my friends. From sport. Going to training was a chore. I found myself during drills and games just wanting to be back in bed on my own.
“I was going to work, coming home, getting in to bed, putting my earphones in and I just lay listening to my daddy’s favourite songs.”
The blog received huge feedback. Therefore, when the Gaelic Players’ Association (GPA) asked him to be their representative in the Belgian capital, it didn’t cost Kerr another thought.
If telling my story helps even one other person along the road, then it’s been worth the telling – that has been his mantra since first deciding to seek help and open up.
“When I first did my blog, I never thought I’d end up in Brussels, at the European parliament, talking about my experiences,” said the 32-year-old, who was joined on the panel in Brussels by Dutch Paralympics gold medallist Lisette Teunissen and Irish Olympic hurdler Jessie Barr.
“It was going into the unknown a bit, speaking at an event like that, but I enjoyed. You’re just telling your story and sharing experiences. I didn’t need a translator so that was a good starting point - they could all understand me.
“But in my case, I was trying to deal with everything, bottling things up instead of letting them take their natural course, putting on a mask - typical bravado basically.
“But going out and speaking about your problems, the more people who do that, the better. If people can relate to me and my story, especially people across the GAA community, then that’s all I ever wanted to do.
“I live in west Belfast, and I’d have a good affiliation with people in north Belfast having played soccer for Newington for a few years, and all you hear about is the suicide rate among young men in both those areas. It’s crazy.
“I read recently that, since 2000, more people have died through suicide than in 30 years of conflict. That just shows how prevalent it is.
“So hopefully people look at me and see he’s just a normal fella who plays Gaelic, goes to work and he got help – why can’t I?
“A few years on, I’m in a good place now, there’s a lot of stability in my life and I’m thankful for that.”