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Wednesday 29 March 2023 Dublin: 15°C
# Mental Health
How a Rose of Tralee escort (and contestant) are gathering stories about depression
A new Facebook campaign is asking people to share their stories about how they got through depression.

IT ALL STARTED at the Rose of Tralee.

Two years ago, 27-year-old Gary Hanrahan from Cork was one of the escorts to a Rose at the annual contest. In between all the events during the festival, he got to know three women who were involved in that year’s Rose of Tralee, including the Dublin Rose and one of the PR organisers.

Not long after the contest two things happened: Firstly, Belle, one of the three women, set up her own website talking about her experience with depression and how she wanted to help other people with her story.

And secondly, Siobhéal Nic Eochaidh, the Dublin Rose in 2011, spoke on The Ryan Tubridy Show about her own experience of depression – which led to Gary getting in touch with an idea.

He contacted all three to see if they would be interested in putting together a short ebook with stories from people who had been through bouts of depression, focusing on how they managed to come out the other side.

“We wanted to look at how people got through depression,” says Gary. “It’s about saying to people ‘Look, this is how we came out of it, it is possible.”

The four friends decided to try to get 30 people to share their stories. They set up a Facebook page called Stories of Hope and put a call out for people to write short pieces about their experiences.

So far, they’ve gotten 15 pieces.

Despite all being about the same illness, all of the stories so far are different. “There’s no one common theme,” he says. “We’ve gotten a couple of stories from people who don’t know what brought it on but they fell into depression and can’t get out of it.”

There are a few about the recession with the stress of life in general getting on top of them, and some people who found it difficult to come out, but they’re all very different.

Gary says that it can be ‘hard’ to get people to share their stories.  The vast majority of people who have written pieces so far have been women. “There is a good spread age-wise – I thought it would end up being younger people – but the biggest issue is trying to get guys,” he says. “Ninety-five per cent so far have been from women.”

The four are hoping to be able to put together the ebook soon, with any money from sales going to Aware.

Siobhéal’s story:


“I am 24 years old and living in Clondalkin, Dublin. Growing up I was always fun-loving, driven, athletic, and confident but at times I would worry about other people’s opinions and what they thought of me. I wanted to be the best at everything and eventually things began to take their toll.

“I developed panic attacks and found myself in a constant state of depression as a result. I could not find the joy in anything. I avoided hanging around with friends, I could not focus in school, I didn’t like my appearance, I stopped exercising. However with the support of family, friends and my CBT therapist, Jackie O’Kelly, things began to change for the better.

“Six years on I have achieved high marks in my Leaving Cert and I have a degree in Media Studies & an Nua Ghaeilge from NUI Maynooth. I was the 2011 Dublin Rose in the Rose of Tralee, I hip-hop danced in the Dome which to date has over 534,000 hits on YouTube, I was featured on Perez Hilton’s blog  and nominated for an IFTA in 2012. I have volunteered twice overseas with Adi Roche & Chernobyl Children International, I have presented for Imeall Geall, BBC Northern Ireland and Raidió na Life, skydived, and made the most incredible friends along the way.

“I now work for Motivation Weight Management and as a reporter for The Ryan Tubridy Show while doing everything in between. Depression can make you a better person when you conquer it and I would not have the life I do now if I hadn’t gone through it. That is the message we want to spread through Stories of Hope. Life is BETTER after depression and people, young and old, need to know this and never forget it.”

Read: Senator Norris: ‘I had a major depression and nervous breakdown’ >

Read: Official figures suggest slight fall in number of suicides in 2012 >

Read: Delays of up to 10 years in diagnosing bipolar disorder >

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