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As Biddy in RTE’s long-running series Glenroe, Mary McEvoy was a much-loved feature of Irish family life. But she was hiding a dark secret. She tells Maria McHale about her years of depression, and how she came to deal with it.

Mary McEvoy believes the hardest part

periods come and go, and I think it is

about living with depression is that on

really important to break down the day

the outside you still look normal. It’s

into small bite-sized moments. First,

a difficult illness to deal with because

get yourself out of bed, then work on

there are no outward signs that there

getting into the shower, and so on.

is something wrong.

Suddenly, you can achieve something, whereas when you’re down and feel

It encourages people into a fickle

too much pressure, the danger is just

response, she believes: “You hear

to pull the covers over your head.”

people say ‘There’s not a bother on you, you look grand.’ What can you

For years, she felt guilty for feeling

say to that? You don’t feel grand on

depressed when she had no “reason”

the inside and you give up trying to

to be, coming from a stable family

explain.”

background with no real problems growing up.

One of our national treasures, Mary McEvoy’s life has long been defined

But she is kinder to herself now, and

by her alter ego Biddy, a character

would like to see Ireland become

she played for 17 years in the long-

a kinder society. “We are dragging

running RTE drama Glenroe.

ourselves down at the moment,” she believes. “There is a lot of meanness

There were pressures at the time to

about the place. We don’t seem to be

separate herself from Biddy, but time

able to sympathise and empathise

has moved on and these days Mary is

with each other.”

better know for her media work – the

Lean on Me Pharmacy

r e v o s d u o l c k c Bla

e o r n e l G

The Lean on Me website (www. leanonme.net) has excellent information about depression, and advice on how to begin a conversation about depression

day we meet she is preparing to go

It’s a fact borne out by a recent survey

on air in her role as Newstalk’s agony

from the Lean on Me Campaign, which

aunt.

found that most Irish people would

Depression stalked her life back

not want to know if a loved one was

then too, she says, and it was “a

suffering from depression.

complete relief” when she was finally diagnosed, to be able to put a label on

“It’s sad that we cannot reach out to

how she was feeling.

each other and help be a shoulder for someone who is suffering. We need

and how to support someone affected by depression. And

“Yes, it’s not like depressed people

to find those qualities in ourselves to

now the Lean on Me Pharmacy

are going around looking physically

make our society better,” says Mary.

campaign aims to encourage the one in 10 people in Ireland affected by depression to consider their community

sick. I can work everyday and people look at me and can’t see anything

Her own coping mechanisms have

wrong,” she explains.

expanded in recent years to include running – a new passion that she

pharmacist as a source of advice and support. As Mary McEvoy says: “I need different levels of support at different times and my pharmacist and GP play an important support role, in addition to my friends and family.”

Completely pragmatic about

finds uplifting, even addictive. “It’s the

depression, Mary says there are

endorphins. It’s such a good feeling,

definite coping mechanisms required

although I’m the slowest runner ever!

to keep depression at bay.

There is a great sense of community and belonging in running groups,

“I’ve had times in my life when I have

and it’s about the taking part and the

cried all the time,” she recalls. “These

running – it’s all good.”

Slainte interviews Mary McEvoy  
Slainte interviews Mary McEvoy