Luke Clerkin

Singing Myself Happy

 

My name is Luke Clerkin, I’m a 24 year old singer songwriter and mental health activist from Tallaght in Dublin, and I’m going to share with you my mental health story. My story begins when I was a teenager growing up in Tallaght, I was never me when I was a teenager, I was a follower. I was bullied a lot as a teen and it affected my mental health quite badly but unfortunately unlike today, there weren’t awareness campaigns around then. 

Like most young teens around here, I got mixed up in anti-social behaviour, I spent most of my days drinking on the streets and hanging around street corners. But unlike most teenagers, I didn’t know when to stop drinking, once I started I wouldn’t stop until I was absolutely paralytic. There were so many mornings where I would wake up not remembering the night before.  I wound up in so many ridiculous and somewhat horrific situations due to my drinking and it caused so much worry and stress for my family.  One of these situations involved walking home from a house party and being attacked by a few lads and being stabbed 6 times with a screw driver. Luckily because I was wearing a duffel coat, the wounds were only superficial, and I survived the attack unscarred. 

The binge drinking would continue on till I started college, and even more when I was attending. Eventually I decided to drop out of college on the morning of my first year summer exams, my life was going nowhere and I was ready to go with it. I was working in deli a few miles away from my home at the time, so I went full time there when I finished college.  I continued to spend my weekends out in Tallaght nightclubs absolutely paralytic until I naively decided I was going to move over to Leeds to live with a friend. I built up so much hype amongst my friends, telling them I was moving away to start a new life. I blamed Tallaght for my problems, when it was really my drinking which was to blame. But when it came to actually leaving, I didn’t want to, but I was too afraid of what people would think of me for not going ahead with it.

So I ‘moved’ to Leeds, I use inverted commas because I only lasted three weeks, but they were the longest three weeks of my life. I stayed in my friend’s house in the Leeds’s suburbs with him, and another guy who owned the house. Through lying about me having to give money to his landlord for an apartment he had been renting around the corner, my so called friend managed to rip me off with the small amount of money I had brought with me. I figured this out through a bank statement he had told me to mind, but he denied it and treated me like I was absolute crap. I then realised he had been using the money I’d given him to pay for our nights out on the town.  I was now alone and broke in a city I didn’t know, just hours away from my family in London, but I was too proud to ask for help, too afraid of what people would think of me. 

Eventually I managed to get home to Tallaght and this is when my mental health really began to deteriorate, I was so lost within myself and everything from my past came on top of me, all of the bullying, the drinking, the fighting, Leeds,  it all made me feel like so low in myself, so low that I became suicidal. I had planned to take my own life by throwing myself off a local bridge; I planned to do it after a night out with my friends, but when it came to the night I planned to do it, I ran home instead. Something within me told me to keep on going, to keep moving forward. 

I spoke out to my family a few days after when I blurted out the words ‘What if I don’t want to be here anymore?’ during an argument .  This is when it all began to get better, my family encouraged me to go to A&E to get help, I was assessed and let go after a few hours waiting, and I was then told to go to my GP who diagnosed me with depression. I was never given any advice about going to a counsellor, this is something I did myself. I was determined to get better, I was determined to live.

After months of counselling, I began to feel like me, I began to feel a lot better within myself, and eventually I picked up the guitar again and started writing music. I’d done this as a kid but because of peer pressure and the naivety of being a rebellious teenager, I fell out of love with it, but I was now ready to start anew. I also decided to stop drinking after one last black out night on New Year’s Eve 2011. My life turned itself around, and when I heard about a young man taking his own life in Tallaght, I decided it was time for me to speak openly about my struggles with depression.

Over four years have passed since I first spoke openly about my mental health, and so much has happened. I went on to become a champion for Teen-Line Ireland , the Freephone helpline for teenagers.  Through founding fundraising buskers collective‘The Never Alone Collective’ and co-founding of a mental health awareness campaign, Action for Suicide Prevention, alongside friends that I met along the way, I managed to raise thousands of euros for the charity and they gained nationwide awareness. Fellow ASP founder and my little brother, Jamie Harrington and I then went on to win a Rotary International award for our work in mental health awareness, in 2015.

None of this would have been possible if I didn’t speak out about my mental health and sought out the help I needed. I now aim to use my music to help people going through what I went through, and like before, I am determined, but not just to live, but to save lives also. Please if you feel like you are in need of help, speak out, it’s the best thing I ever did.

Doug Leddin