Brechin City goalkeeper Paddy O’Neil admits his world was turned upside down by his father’s sudden death – and he is calling on government officials to make mental health a top priority.
O’Neil’s Dad, Danny, died suddenly in November aged 60.
The shell-shocked Glebe Park keeper has been busy comforting his mother Patricia, brother Conor and sisters Caitlin and Siobhan as the family come to terms with the passing of the former financial high-flyer.
Now the 28-year-old is urging those in power to tackle head-on the issues surrounding mental health.
O’Neil, who’s set to face Annan Athletic at Glebe Park today, said: “It’s been a hellish past few weeks.
“Since my Dad passed away in early November, it really has made me think about mental health more than ever.
‘Mental health pandemic’
“Up until lockdown, he had never suffered from anything like anxiety or depression. But then all of a sudden it took over.
“Of course, there is a coronavirus pandemic which has taken such a severe toll.
“But there’s also a mental health pandemic out there which comes as a side-effect and needs far greater attention.
“My Dad was an absolute rock in my life. He was in the financial sector and being so successful meant he managed to retire at the age of 41.
“But to us he was just ‘Dad’, always supporting us in our respective careers with his advice and experience.
“He’d obviously want me to carry on playing as normal. And I know he’ll be looking down wanting me to do my best as ever.
“That gives me strength and desire to go out and do my best. At the end of the day, that’s what he was all about during his life.”
O’Neil returned between the sticks for last weekend’s 2-1 defeat away to Stenhousemuir and admits being back doing what he does best has helped him enormously.
He said: “Football is a great way to take your mind off everything.
“It has allowed me to focus on something else and try to regain some sort of normality in recent weeks.
“Brechin have been brilliant. They gave me some time off just to help my Mum, brother and sisters sort stuff out after everything we’ve been through.
“I’m also travelling with our goal-keeping coach, Craig Nelson, to training and games which has really helped me.
“It means I’m not spending hours in the car on long journeys with negative thoughts which could be the case if you were on your own.
“During the warm-up for our game last Saturday with Stenhousemuir, my former Brechin team-mate – Callum Tapping – came right over and put his arms around me.
“He said if I needed to chat or anything like that then he would always be there – that was great too.”