Without my wife coming down that night I wouldn’t be here, says Olympian Wayne McCullough as he opens up on depression

OLYMPIAN Wayne McCullough has told how he was ready to take his own life as a young man — with his wife stopping him for going through with it.

The former boxer won silver for Ireland at the Olympics in 1992 and gold for Northern Ireland at the 1990 Commonwealth Games.

At the height of his career, Wayne, a world champion in 1996, was ready to take his own life

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At the height of his career, Wayne, a world champion in 1996, was ready to take his own lifeCredit: Getty Images – Getty
The Belfast man admitted that despite looking like he was on top of the world, he was struggling with his mental health

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The Belfast man admitted that despite looking like he was on top of the world, he was struggling with his mental healthCredit: Times Newspapers Ltd
After his time in the Olympics, he turned pro and moved to Las Vegas with his wife Cheryl

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After his time in the Olympics, he turned pro and moved to Las Vegas with his wife CherylCredit: PA:Press Association

After his time in the Olympics, he turned pro and moved to vegas with his wife Cheryl.

But the Belfast man admitted that despite looking like he was on top of the world, he was struggling with his mental health.

And at the height of his career, Wayne, a world champion in 1996, was ready to take his own life.

The 52-year-old said: “I was world champion, had my belt and just slipped into depression.

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“People think that because you have everything, you’re happy.”

Known as Pocket Rocket, Wayne said he had planned his suicide out and deliberately was going to do it during the night as his wife was a heavy sleeper.

On the This Yourself podcast, he said: “She sleeps like a log and that’s why I waited until the middle of the night. I didn’t plan one day, this stretched out for a year.

“When people are depressed, you are not depressed one day and kill yourself the next day. It’s a long process — you don’t show it, then you don’t talk to anybody about it.

“And then you get to the point where you are like, ‘I can do this’. Then you get to the point where you plan to do it and then you get to the point where you are going to do it.

“When you get to that point, it’s the scariest time. Because you know why? You know you’re going to do it. You’ve no fear.”

Cheryl unexpectedly woke up the night Wayne was planning to take his own life and finally got him to open up about his problems.

He said: “Without my wife coming down that night I wouldn’t be here. It was a matter of ‘I’m done’.”

He added: “That door was open for me and I was going to do it. And it was over and I wouldn’t be here. But God sent an angel down in my wife and that was it.”

Looking back, Wayne can see how his want to end everything all started with financial issues arising out of a business deal.

He said: “So that’s why I slipped away into depression. I should have talked to people first but I didn’t. I just kept it all built up, built up.”

Wayne said he’s so grateful to his wife now, as they have gone on to live a much happier life and have a daughter, Wynona, who’s in her 20s.

He said: “I was still fighting, I defended my belt in Dublin going through depression. That was March and it was right after that, April of 96 when the curtain was coming down. When I think about it now, thank God because my daughter.

“We told her about it when she was older. And when we told her about it, she was almost in tears.

She said, ‘Daddy I want to have you here’. I’d never have known her.”

And that is why he is constantly reaching out to his friends and fellow fighters to get them to talk — and pressing people who feel dark thoughts to speak to someone.

He said: “A lot of people don’t cry for help, they keep it built up. You have to talk to people. You have to talk. Some people won’t listen to you but some will. There’s some people you talk to and you say it to them, and they’re like ‘You’re stupid, what are you talking about?’

“And when you say that to people, it’ll drive you even further down. You’ve just got to get somebody who’s going to listen to you.”

He praised the likes of Tyson Fury, who has been opened in recent years about his battle with mental health. And Wayne hopes to help others who feel as down as he did.

He said: “I’ve been to the depths of the door where it’s over, without my wife coming out that day I wouldn’t be here.

“God had a reason for me to be here and maybe I’ll help people. It doesn’t matter if you have $10million in the bank or $100billion or two pennies, you can get depression.”

YOU’RE NOT ALONE

IF you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can freephone the Samaritans 24 hours a day for confidential support at 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org.

You can also freephone the national Bereavement Support Line run by the HSE and Irish Hospice Foundation at 1800 80 70 77 (Monday-Friday 10am-1pm), and the contact information for a range of mental health supports is available at mentalhealthireland.ie/get-support.

You can also contact Pieta House on their helpline at 1800 247 247, while people can also text HELP to 51444 to reach a counsellor.

He added: “If you feel like you’re getting depressed you need to talk to somebody. It doesn’t need to be a psychiatrist, it doesn’t have to be someone like that.

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“It can be your friend, you can talk to your neighbour, someone who’s going to listen to you.”

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