Browne was an exemplary student throughout much of secondary school, even managing to obtain a ‘Student Of The Year’ award in fifth year, but that all changed once he entered sixth year and he began to struggle both inside and outside of school.
Speaking to the Anton Savage Show on Today FM, Browne described the negative impact the stress of the Leaving Certificate had on his mental health.
“In early sixth year I realised things were starting to go downhill a bit and my moods were getting awful,” he explained.
“Some days I’d just go into my bedroom after school and wouldn’t tell anyone, but I’d just burst into tears. There was no explanation for it,” the Wexford native continued.
“I wanted to stay in bed all day and every day. I was a nightmare to live with. I lost all interest and became very introverted,” Browne said.
Browne described the Leaving Certificate as the “final nail in the coffin” that eventually “broke” him. “My mind kind of cracked and it was building up for so long,” he revealed.
In 2009, the now communications graduate was diagnosed with depression and was put on medication.
Despite attaining 390 points in his Leaving Certificate that year, he was not satisfied with his results and subsequently he didn’t get into any of the courses he had applied for on his CAO, as he had aspired to obtain 500 points the previous summer.
“Personally I would have hoped for the five hundreds. It didn’t bother me at that time though. When the CAO offers came out it was tough to watch my friends go off, but looking back there is no way I could have gone off to college at that stage,” he said.
Having taken a year out of academia to work and recover from his difficult year, he decided to then take an alternative route into DCU in which he had to prove that his exam performance had been impacted by an illness – and in his case; depression.
“I reapplied to the CAO the following year and got accepted to DCU and haven’t looked back since.”
Browne also shared his words of advice to students who may not have got what they wanted in their CAO applications.
“If the front door isn’t open go around the back or come back later and ring the bell,” he advised.
“If someone doesn’t have any offers in front of them today, this is when you have to stand up. There is a grieving process involved, but get on with it and reassess. By no means is this over.”