On the surface it seems hard to believe that former Ireland’s strongest man junior champion, Chris McNaghten, suffers with depression, but this gentle giant has been struggling with the debilitating disorder for nearly a decade.
Chris, 28, who is originally from Larne, revealed he was bullied at secondary school and believes that the experience had a massive bearing on his mental health growing up.
Now an ambassador for AWARE – NI’s national depression charity, he is organising a Mood Walk in Glenarm as part of the Dalriada Festival to help raise funds for the charity which helps support and educate people on the illness of depression.
Chris said: “I’m asking people of East Antrim to come along and support the Mood Walk, especially the pillars within the community to help show new generation that mental health is nothing to be embarrassed about. Larne has experienced too much loss and sadness through mental health, I hope we can come together and help support it.
“I lacked confidence, which affected relationships with my family and friends. The main thing for me was being so unhappy with my appearance. Not having confidence in how I looked led to not going on nights out with friends and constantly having sick and worrying feelings when out in public.”
However, things started to change for Chris when he got heavily into fitness after joining a local gym and began competing in strongman competitions.
He said. “I tried to do things to help myself and decided to join the gym. I began weightlifting and quickly realised how passionate I was about it. It really gave me a focus and helped regain my confidence. Competing in the Junior Ireland’s Strongest Man competition was scary but it was very exciting for me. Winning the competition in 2012 and again in 2013 was an amazing achievement and a very proud moment for me. I thoroughly believe that fitness and exercise changed my life. I’m not saying that if you get into fitness it will be a cure, but having that relationship with fitness and physical activity is a huge help in managing depression and anxiety.”
Chris began working with depression charity AWARE in a bid to share his story with other young people who might be in a situation similar to his own. To help promote the work of the charity and raise funds for their vital services, Chris has been instrumental in organising the Dalriada Mood Walk which is taking place on Tuesday, July 18, in Glenarm as part of the
Dalriada Festival. He is encouraging people to take part and show their support for people with depression.