Roger Harty: An Open Letter To Gareth O’Callaghan

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rsz_roger_hartyRoger Harty responds to Gareth O’Callaghan’s controversial view on suicide expressed in a Facebook post last week (click here to read O’Callaghan’s post)

Dear Gareth,

I call you Gareth as I feel as if I know you, even though I have never met you.

Ten years ago I was suicidal and in the depths of depression.

I had gone through a series of panic attacks, had endured  nearly 14 weeks without sleep, was scared beyond belief and really was a lost soul and didn’t know where to turn to.

I have no doubt that I was in a suicidal zone for a period of about six months and all I can say is that I felt unbelievably vulnerable and lost.

I am a married man and a father of two beautiful boys and at the time was a self–employed professional optician with nearly 20 years of business behind me.

I felt my world collapsing around me – my business (especially being self-employed),  my marriage, and being honest, my very existence were all at risk. By God did I feel vulnerable.

Fortunately and thanks be to God with the support of a loving – but need I also say, terrified – wife and family and the wonderful care I received from St Patrick’s Psychiatric Hospital, I managed to get some sort of respite from the hell that I was experiencing on a daily if not hourly basis.

All I know that I did not want to die but I also did not want to live the way I was living. My wife was ‘my rock’ during this horrific period.

When I came out of hospital, after a period of time of rest and recuperation, I eventually summoned enough energy to read some self- help material and to begin the journey of taking charge of my own life.

I was determined to find the answer and I went by the motto that ‘if my mind could make me sick then my mind could make me better’ something that I came up with myself in the depths of despair.

My reading of self-help material put me in touch with some great writers and I must honestly say how grateful I am for your wonderful book ‘A Day Called Hope’.

I particularly found solace in the chapter where you described the different zones we can experience in our lives.

For instance when one is severely depressed  there is  ‘The comfort Zone’ which could involve staying in bed all day with sheet’s over one’s head. ‘The Stretch Zone’ which could involve something as simple as going downstairs of going to the local shop and ‘The Danger Zone’ which could involve going to a wedding or going to mass.

The gist of it is that the more time you spend in ‘The Danger Zone’ the quicker the recovery.

Fortunately my life has completely turned around and I am now a practicing life-coach.

I will never forget my experience but, like yourself, I have learned so much about myself.

I love the saying –‘stormy seas make a good sailor’. The whole experience has thought me so much of how it is so important to love ourselves and then to spread that love in any way that we can.

The essence of my life-coaching is to get people to love themselves and when that happens everything else begins to change.

I now write a weekly column in a Tralee online magazine called and one can see all of my articles if you look up Roger Harty Archives on the internet.

I now must enter my ‘danger zone’ once more (as I have never written a letter of this type before) as I feel compelled to write to you.

It is relation to an article that you recently published on facebook in relation to suicide. In this article you described the ‘act of suicide’ as selfish.

I am writing to you to let you know how hurtful I find that comment. It is my strong view that neither the person who commits suicide, nor the act of suicide should be considered in any way selfish.

In fact I believe that suicide and selfish should not even be mentioned in the same sentence as it is like putting petrol on a fire.

It is my very considered (and personal) opinion, that no one in their right thinking mind would commit suicide.

In fact there is no organ that would willingly take its own life. The thinking process isn’t working right so, de facto, any thoughts that come from that faulty thinking process are going to be by themselves faulty.

It is akin to blaming an alcoholic for breaking into his child’s piggy bank to raid it in order to buy the alcohol he is craving.

That person needs help, compassion and understanding and certainly not condemnation or being called selfish. God bless them, but they condemn themselves enough.

It is because you are regarded as a successful counsellor that I find your remarks so hurtful. To say that I am angry is an understatement.

However, angry I am, I am also grateful that life has giving me the skills to deal with this anger and writing this letter to you is one of my ways of dealing with that same anger.

It is how I feel about your article and if I didn’t write this, I wouldn’t be true to you or myself. I refuse to engage in any type of vitriol and I promise you I am not trying to have a cheap pot-shot at you.

I simply do not agree with suicide being, in any way, a selfish act.

These (suicidal) people simply require a listening ear, love, compassion, understanding, coupled with some very careful guidance.

They need reassurance that there is hope and that there is a way out of their dreadful demise. God Bless them but they are vulnerable. I can promise you that the word selfish has no place in by vocabulary at any stage.

That is why I am so disappointed in your article as a trained counsellor I would expect you to be more supportive and compassionate especially having been through it yourself.

Using the word selfish is the very thing that could tip a very vulnerable person over the brink. To say the least, I find it very inconsiderate of you.

Nevertheless I wish you the very best and all I can say at this stage is “Gareth – your opinion is not my opinion”.


Roger Harty


  1. Sharon Roche says:

    Roger thank you for writing that letter, I too am very angry that Gareth O Callaghan would say what he said, and a qualified. Outsell or as well, I too agree with you that Suicide and Selfish should never be used in the same sentence. The day my son Sean took his own life was the hardest decision he ever made, I know this a his mom, so thank you again

  2. Wonderful letter. I admire your honesty and bravery. Your very proud cousin.