Brian Lenihan's son talks of battle with depression, suicide attempt

Monday 09 September 2013 23.39
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Tom Lenihan said his father, Brian, cried during the financial crisis
Tom Lenihan said his father, Brian, cried during the financial crisis
Tom Lenihan was speaking to RTÉ 2fm's Ryan Tubridy
Tom Lenihan was speaking to RTÉ 2fm's Ryan Tubridy
A conference on suicide has heard from Console on standards of service for those affected by the issue
A conference on suicide has heard from Console on standards of service for those affected by the issue

Brian Lenihan's son has said that telling his father he was suffering from depression was the hardest thing he has ever had to do.

Tom Lenihan said the former finance minister broke down in tears when he learned that his son had tried to take his own life.

The 22-year-old told RTÉ 2fm's Tubridy show that he has suffered from depression since the age of 13, and made a suicide attempt when he was 18.

"I told him and he broke down in tears. I expected that. He felt that he was letting me down.

"When he was in office he said the biggest crisis was me, because he just didn’t have the answers," he said.

The Trinity College Student Union President was speaking ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day, which takes place tomorrow.

He revealed that he struggled with alcohol in college and admitted cheating during a law exam.

"I was not prepared for my exams. I was drinking a bit and pulling all nighters. I wasn't on my medication, I cheated on the exam and I was caught.

"I knew straight away I was in trouble. It was a wake-up call that I needed to take better care of myself," he said.

Tom Lenihan also revealed details of his father’s turmoil during the financial crisis, describing how the finance minister cried during deliberations over difficult budgets.

"Dad would have shed tears over it. The fact the cuts were so awful, you are balancing two impossible moral choices."

He said he did not want his father to resign when he was diagnosed with cancer.

"I had to balance the national interest with my own struggles; I would have felt guilty that he had resigned because of me. I wanted my dad to die peacefully; I wanted to create less tension as I could regarding my own demons." 

The law and business student revealed he has no desire to follow his father into politics, and disagreed with many Fianna Fáil policies.

"I voted for my dad. I didn’t vote for anyone else. I can't really reconcile my views with Fianna Fáil. They are a very conservative party that cares for middle aged and middle class," he said.

Robust standards needed, conference told

Meanwhile, a conference on suicide has been told there are now more initiatives and supports for those affected by the issue.

Console Chief Executive Paul Kelly said there was also a need to prevent duplication of services.

He told the conference in Dublin that there needed to be robust evaluation to assess standards of service provision in the area of suicide prevention and support for those affected.

President Michael D Higgins told the conference that in times of economic difficulty, organisations have a responsibility about the way they speak to people.

He said there was a need to reduce the stigma around suicide so that people in distress feel able to seek help.

Mr Higgins also said that mental health can be recovered and that depression can have many roots.

Helplines: Console 1800-201890. Aware 01-6617211. Samaritans 1850-609090.