Belfast Telegraph

Vinny Hurrell: My best friend taking her own life spurred me on to succeed on radio

By Leona O'Neill and Mark Bain

Radio Ulster presenter Vinny Hurrell has revealed how the tragic death of his best friend drove him to succeed in his broadcasting career.

Stephen Nolan's quick-witted sidekick for the last decade opened up about the sadness behind his on-air laughs and said he hopes that 13 years on he's making his friend proud.

Vinny (36) said that his school years in Randalstown were tough for him and that he never really fitted in, struggling to socialise.

But just as he was at his lowest ebb he met Nuala Johnston. The two became inseparable as they journeyed through their teens and early 20s.

But tragically Nuala took her own life in 2005 aged just 24, leaving Vinny devastated.

"Nuala and I went to the same primary school," he told the Belfast Telegraph. "But it wasn't until secondary school that we became friends. To a certain extent if it wasn't for Nuala I don't know if I would have got through school."

He added: "After I graduated from university we decided we would take a year out and travel to Australia. We were saving money to go but it was not to be."

In an interview in today's Weekend magazine, Vinny explains how he heard the terrible news.

"At the end of the November I remember coming into town to do Christmas shopping and I called to Nuala's house and she wasn't at home. I decided I would call with her maybe the next day.

"I didn't really think much of it. I went home after my shift and went to bed in my mum and dad's house and was woken up the next day by the landline ringing. It was my sister and she sounded upset.

"She said that she had heard Nuala's name being read out in Mass, that they had said prayers for her.

"I said that it couldn't be Nuala, that I would know. I told her to check. But at the back of my mind, I knew.

"I don't know what your brain is doing at that point.

"But my sister rang me back and said it was definitely true. And I've never had a feeling like that. You feel like the floor has just disappeared beneath you. And it's almost like you are floating above yourself and watching yourself react to something. It was just total and utter shock and devastation."

Vinny recalled: "I knew at that point, even though no one told me what had happened. I knew it was by her own hand.

"Suicide leaves you with so many unanswered questions. And I think the frustrating part is that you never will really get answers to those questions." Urging people to speak out, Vinny said suicide is a huge issue here.

"Nuala's death changed my whole perception of life," he said. "I know it's a real cliche but nothing is guaranteed, nothing is forever, whether that is something you are going through yourself or people in your own life, or even your own existence here, you have to make the most of it."

If you are affected by any issues in this article contact the Samaritans on 084 5790 9090 or Lifeline on 080 8808 8000

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