Chris McNaghten was the latest guest on Tommy Tiernan’s Saturday night show on RTÉ where he opened up about coming out and his mental health struggles.
Viewers were stunned as the 30 year-old from Larne, Co Antrim, gave a frank and honest account of experiencing suicidal thoughts to then becoming a courageous spokesperson for mental health.
Speaking to Tommy Tiernan, Chris shared that after gaining notoriety for his success as a strongman, he became fearful: “For me, that was really scary, because up until I was 28, I hadn’t been honest about who I was and the life that I was living.
“So I sort of ran away from it quite a bit, and when I was in my mid-20s, I had a real low with my mental health, where I took an attempt on my own life. It’s mad to look back at it now, and think that you saw great happiness in the thought of ending your life. You almost sound a wee bit mad talking to people and saying you were excited about suicide, excited about a way out.”
McNaghten shared how his mental health suffered because of the overwhelming stress and worry of people he cared about finding out he was gay.
“It was just a runaway, it was just to get away and not have all this worry and stress and feelings on top of you, to be able to just not be scared anymore.
“I took an overdose, and I was really, really lucky that my mum and my dad, they realised something was wrong and came home early. They came in and found me and got me help and got me sorted.
“The one thing that gave me strength, I’ll always do talks and seminars about mental health, and I’ll always talk about Holly’s voice, because my wee sister was in the house when it happened and to see what it would have put her through, and to hear it, that’s always been my strength going forward after that is to understand what it would have done to her, so that’s always stopped me going back to those days.
“A lot of people who get to that situation in life don’t get that second chance, they don’t get to see what it does to people you love. And I think your mindset going into something like that is that everybody will be OK eventually. But to actually see it, and to hear it — once you actually see it, you could never do that to somebody.”
Speaking more about his coming out experience, Chris shared that he decided to do so aged 27, a decision which has made his life “incredible”
“The main thing I was struggling with was the fact that I wasn’t coming to terms with who I was. At that time I was in my mid-20s, and I only got the real strength and confidence when I was 27 to come out and be open I was gay.
“It was hidden up until that point, I was 27 or 28, it was hidden for a very very long time and I was living a heterosexual lifestyle and dating girls.
“It was a huge strain and it was a huge worry. Just looking back now, it’s hard to believe, but you can remember what it was like, it’s so sad to say it, the fact that you’d rather have been dead than to be gay. The life I have now and who I am now is incredible, and I’m so lucky and I’m so gifted.”
As Tommy expressed surprise that Chris had such a difficult coming out journey, Chris explained:
“It’s the same I know with a lot of people. It’s very rare that being gay is put across as in a positive way. It always seems to be used in a negative way, and it scared the heart and soul clean out of me.”
Speaking of his relationship with his father, Chris says the thought of his sexuality straining their relationship held him back for years:
“We were always the best of friends, and looking back at it now, I’d no reason to worry, but I was just scared in case I would lose him, or lose what we had.
“He needed a couple of days to get his head around it, and there was stuff going on in work and I was losing friends, and it was just a “have I done the right thing” type of thing. Dad just came in and walked up to me and gave me a hug and a kiss and he said: “I’ll always love you, no matter what.” After that, I didn’t give a sh**. I really didn’t care what anybody else said, I had him, I had my family, I had my close friends.”
Following the interview, there was an outpouring of admiration and support for Chris, with one viewer writing:
“Excellent and extremely moving interview with Chris. So glad he found his happy ending. The Tommy Tiernan show just keeps getting better.”
“Brave, broken and beautiful. Well done Chris. A very authentic and honest interview,” wrote another Twitter user.
GCN has published a guide on how to deal with anxiety and stress related to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are also a plethora of supports available to vulnerable LGBT+ people, listed below, and many offer instant messaging support.
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