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Dublin: 2 °C Wednesday 13 November, 2019
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After losing his mother to suicide at 11, hurler running marathon in Antarctic for suicide prevention

“Counselling was the most important intervention in my life and that’s not to be dramatic, that’s just being honest.”

SEAMUS HENNESSY WAS 11 years old when he lost his mother Josie to suicide.

The former Tipperary senior hurler described to TheJournal.ie how getting counselling after her death was “the most important intervention” in his life.

The 28-year-old is now planning to run a marathon in the Antarctic with the aim of raising €200,000 for suicide charities.

Speaking about the help he got after his mother’s death, Hennessy said:

I’m an only child, it was only the two of us [his father and himself] in the aftermath of this.

His dad brought him to a Rainbows Ireland Group after the death, where he took part in a 12-week child counselling course.

“At the time, I was doing it because I was brought over, you spent two hours playing games or doing arts and crafts and you had a workbook that was given to you and you would work through some questions each night.

RFJ

“I remember some of the questions were like: ‘What’s it like now without your Mam around to cook?’ I’d say it was crap because Dad can’t cook.

“And ‘What do you do now if somebody says something nasty at school and you don’t have your Mam to talk to?’

It gave me the ability to be vulnerable and not to see that as a weakness, that’s what I got from it.

“You’ll have times when things are difficult and you’re upset and what I learned is that talking is a great therapy for that.

“Where you feel comfortable to talk to people, it’s a very powerful antidote and a very powerful thing to do.”

Hennessy said it took him until he was in his early 20s to appreciate the impact that counselling had had on him.

“I never caused my dad a moments difficulty and when I reflected back it just brought me back to the counselling and the foundation stones that were put in place without me even being conscious of it.

“It was the most important intervention in my life and that’s not to be dramatic, that’s just being honest.”

‘Relying on stubbornness’ 

Hennessy has now decided to run a marathon in the -20 to -30 degrees temperatures of the Antarctic to raise money for charities that help other people suffering with mental health issues or who are affected by suicide.

On Thursday 13 December, he will take part in the Antarctic Ice Marathon under the RunningForJosie campaign to raise €200,000 for Pieta House and Living Links Tipperary.

Asked how training is going, Hennessy explained GAA is important to him and that he’s currently in busy season playing GAA in Tipperary with his home club and that’s his training for now.

Nenagh Éire Óg Mid Summer Run Source: Odhran Ducie

“At the moment I’m not doing any specific running training, I’ll get back to it as soon as the championship is over.”

He also added that there’s no real way to replicate the weather conditions here but added that he did take advantage of the snow in March.

“I’m relatively fit but I know this is a different thing to train for.

I’ll be relying on stubbornness and a strong mental approach to get me through.

Not alone

Speaking about his approach to fundraising, Hennessy explained that he is relying on people, just like he did when his mother died.

If you think about what happened to me and my family – I couldn’t overcome that alone, this is no different.

“If you lose somebody suddenly, the grief is different, very quickly you can compartmentalise how it happened, while it’s not easier to accept, you can understand why or how it happened.

“But in the case of suicide you can put forward ideas of why it happened but you never know, you can never ask, you have this ‘why’ with you for the rest of your life.

I couldn’t get on with what happened on my own. I couldn’t get over that alone and I couldn’t raise this money on my own.

Hennessy explained that it costs Pieta House around €1,000 on average to help each person that comes to them. So out of this, he decided to set up a ‘pledge a thousand campaign’ so people can help by fundraising.

So far over 30 people have got involved with this, people are cycling the Ring of Kerry, doing the Four Peaks Challenge and running marathons.

Hennessy has also been sharing his story in schools and doing different talks for the past number of years.

“I just go along if people invite me to go to different events they might be running.”

“I’ve been to 10 schools so far in 2018, and maybe six more that have been planned for the next calendar year that begins in September.”

Hennessy said that some of the schools he spoke to have been incredibly generous, €5,800 came from Scoil Pól in Kilfinane in Limerick and €3,500 came from Borrisokane Community College in Tipperary.

Hennessy said the race cost €15,000 to enter but he paid for that with a loan because he wants every cent raised to go to the charities.

The fundraising target is €200,000 and so far almost €30,000 has been raised.

If you need to talk, contact:

  • Samaritans 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.ie
  • Aware 1800 80 48 48 (depression, anxiety)
  • Pieta House 1800 247247 or email mary@pieta.ie – (suicide, self-harm)
  • Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)
  • Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)

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