Why is this man climbing Kilimanjaro with a washing machine on his back?

It's all in aid of charity, Enda O'Doherty told The Pat Kenny Show

On a normal day, Enda O'Doherty teaches Geography at De La Salle College in Co Waterford - so far, so normal.

However, the teacher is about to undertake an endeavor that is far from normal - climbing Africa's highest peak with a washing machine strapped to his back.

In an effort to raise money for mental health and suicide prevention charity Pieta House, O'Doherty has already raised an estimated €130,000.

Admitting that the washing machine is "a bit of a gimmick" to garner media attention, it also acts as an important symbol of the mental weight people often carry.

"In one life, I am an alcoholic," he told The Pat Kenny Show. "November will be 11 years since I had a drink [...] Drink was my medication - it was my sleeping tablet, it was my anti-depressant, it was everything to me.

"When I stopped drinking, I realised I was suffering from panic attacks, anxiety, suffering from a sleep disorder, suffering from depression [...] I had to learn a whole skillset to get out of that.

O'Doherty credits his wide network of family and friends for helping him through, but acknowledged that many of those suffering do not have those supports to fall back on.

Pieta House in Waterford was the charity's 10th centre to open in 10 years.

"We started campaigning to get Pieta House opened in the south-east. Mission one was to get that open."

"On a personal level too, I've lost two students to suicide [...] Particularly one of the boys, I remember going to his funeral in the local church, and the sound that came from his mother was probably one of the key things that has motivated me.

"She didn't cry - it was like an animal in pain. It was something that really made a big impression on me."

O'Doherty is now in the gym three times a day every day in the run up to the climb - all 16,100 ft of it. The Beko washing machine weighs an estimated 40kg. 

"You cannot miss the load I'm carrying"

Students can almost be forgiven for perceiving teachers as all-ruling and unfeeling. That's the importance of the washing machine in his journey, O'Doherty explains.

"That's why the washing machine is symbolic," he said. "You cannot miss the load I'm carrying, but my point is that you're closest closest colleague or family or friend can be carrying that problem and you can't see the problem and you have to ask the question 'Are you ok?'

"Equally, if you're the one carrying the problem, you have to reach out and ask for help. Many of my colleagues when I began this campaign, some of them apologised to me, they said, 'look, we're sorry we weren't there for you'.

"I said, 'You could never have been there for me because I was never going to ask for help, I wasn't prepared to share the load'. If I had kept that load to myself, I'm fairly sure it would have cost me my life."


Recent studies have seen Ireland claim the fourth highest rate of suicide among teenagers in Europe.

Principal Margaret Betts said there's more pressure on young people today.

"In my 31 years in the school, I would say that in the last five or six, there's definitely more instances of self-harm," she said. "As a result, we're hearing more about mental health issues than ever before.

"I think it's a great thing," she said, referring to O'Doherty's climb. "He's talked about his own difficulties, and he's shown that it is possible to overcome difficulties."

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As well as the obvious mental challenge, the physical undertaking has been huge for O'Doherty.

"I lost all of my toenails, I lost the fat pads on the front of my feet, I broke both sets of metatarsals," he said. "I got leaky gut, which is when you try and eat 8,000 or 9,000 calories a day, it leaks from your intestine into your blood stream.

"People say to me, 'why do you drive yourself like this?' And I say, 'if you saw the emails I get from people'. Some of the stories are really heartbreaking and tragic but some of them are really uplifting too.

"People have said 'look, I've turned it around, I've shared that load and it's made a difference to me, so keep doing what you're doing'."

If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article you can contact Samaritans free any time from any phone on 116 123 or visit www.samaritans.ie to find details of your nearest branch. You can also find online information at www.yourmentalhealth.ie