Internationally renowned sheep shearer, George Graham “was one of those people that have found themselves in a very bad, dark place for quite a long time”.
Sheep shearing has brought him all over the world to thirteen different countries, and he has represented Ireland in world championships on eleven occasions.
As part of his career, the Wexford native completed a stint in the north of Norway, where he first came to terms with his mental health battle.
“Every night, I was going to bed quite early. I was not eating properly, and I was not sleeping properly.”
“Moreover, I did not understand what was wrong with me. I did what a lot of people try to do. I tried to run away from my problem.”
“The only thing in my head 24/7 was that I just wanted to end my own life,” he explained in a video that the HSA released on July 5th, 2022.
“My mind was on overtime, just racing here, there, and everywhere. It was just an absolute nightmare, thinking of all these crazy things. I could not stop it, and I could not control it.”
Talking and GP visit
What he actually did in Norway was what he described as the first step. He admitted that the first step for anyone is the hardest step you will ever take.
He continued: “This couple, I was working for, the farmer and wife, she was a psychiatric nurse, and I got a new job shearing a few miles down the road.”
“I happened to say to her this day; I do not think they have a lot of English. Could you help me with some translation? And she said, yes, no problem – you can ring or call anytime you want.”
“But, if I was being honest with her and myself – which I was not – that is not what I wanted to say to her. I wanted to say, ‘I am in the depths of despair, can you please help me?”.”
But her answer was yes, no problem, just ring or call anytime you want, and that was a “lifeline” for the Irish shearer.
He went home to his family GP and was “quickly” diagnosed with depression and was given some medication.
He admitted that “it is probably the worst place you could ever be”.
Probably one of the better ways of describing it, he said, is like going through a long, dark, twisty, narrow tunnel. He added that it can be very steep in places and narrow.
It is difficult to get through that tunnel on your own, but if you can keep going, you will get through that tunnel, he added.
The closer you get to the end, there is a light there, and that light will get brighter and brighter, he explained.
“The one thing about this mental well-being problem is that you cannot carry or continue this load on your own.”
“You need to share it. I accept that it can be quite difficult to share with your family or even go to a GP.”
“However, call a friend, say you would like to meet them for a chat or for a cup of tea; that is the first step.”
“There is help out there; there is support out there, and if nothing else comes from this, I will just coax people to take that first step, talk to somebody. Lastly, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it will work for you as well,” George Graham concluded.
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