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Belfast Live
Belfast Live
Anna McAree

Derry girl highlights importance of men's mental health awareness after father's death

A young woman is to shine a light on the memory of her late dad by encouraging men to open up about their own mental health.

Courtney Roberts lost her father Shea on August 30, 2020, and now is taking on a fundraiser to raise money for the Derry charities that helped her in those darkest days.

Since the loss of her father, Courtney has also highlighted the lack of support in place for those who are seeking help for their mental health struggles.

Read more: Watch: Co Derry school children perform anti-bullying song

Speaking about her father and her tragic loss, Courtney said: "My dad Shea was a bit of a jack the lad and popular with his friends. He was fond of his looks, style and taking care of himself in the gym where he made friends for life. Most of all he loved his family especially his six children.

"My dad struggled to open up with his feelings, he had his demons and struggled with his mental health a lot especially the last three years of his life. My dad struggled with many things including body dysmorphia, paranoia and depression. People may think that only women struggle with their appearance however it also affects men, including my dad.

"This story is to show how people struggle with their mental health, especially men that are reluctant to open up and seek help, even if they are the ‘manly man’."

Courtney told MyDerry how in the last few weeks of his life, her father Shea appeared to be turning a corner, but in reality was sheltering those closest to him from his internal struggle.

She said: "Two weeks prior to August 30 we thought we had reached a turning point with my dad when he went to get help from A&E regarding his depressive thoughts, however they released him almost immediately. After spending time with his parents my dad agreed to get help so he had contacted the doctors. However, as it was during coronavirus times doctors were not seeing patients and the waiting lists were long but we had great hope that everything would be okay.

"From the outside looking in my family and I thought it was going in the right direction and that he wanted to fight and to see the light out of the dark hole so we were confused to what changed his mind. Perhaps it was the lack of hope he had to receiving professional support. Perhaps he didn’t have faith that his life could change."

Foyle Search and Rescue became a vital support service for Courtney and her family in the hours and days after her father's tragic death, as well as other riverside charities.

She said: "Foyle Search and Rescue treated us with respect throughout, they gave us the information straight and didn’t restrict details. They treated us as if we were normal people not a news story or something to gossip about.

"During this time other volunteer charities like Search Team NorthWest and Maiden City River Watch were also closely involved and do not get enough recognition for what they do too. While Foyle Search and Rescue worked closely with the water search, Search Team North West worked closely alongside my family and friends."

Courtney and her family have taken on several fundraisers in aid of these organisations since her dad's passing. This month Courtney will take on a zipline across the river which claimed the life of her father.

Speaking about the fundraiser, she said: "This was the mental challenge that I was searching for. I know that it will be difficult to get up to the height required and to step off to zip line across the Foyle. To overcome this difficult task will be a reward, not just for me, my dad, Foyle Search and Rescue but also families out there that may need their help someday.

"This fundraising event will take place on the 20th of May at Prehen Boat House where many others will be taking part in the Zipline to raise funds not only for Foyle Search and Rescue but other charities like HURT, Cancer Care and other charities of choice."

Donations to the fundraiser can be made here.


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