Perspectives: ‘My brother faced stigma, red tape, long waiting times, under-resourced hospitals. In the end it was too much’
Today as we mark World Suicide Prevention Day, Amanda Cassidy speaks to Laura* who's brother sadly took his own life four years ago.
“It was a sunny Sunday and a few of us had been out the night before so we slept late at a friend’s house but my mum called around 11am to see if we’d heard from Dave.
I’d seen him on the day before, Saturday morning at home in the kitchen. Nothing seemed wrong. He was laughing about some silly programme we always watched and seemed in good form. Now when I think back, I find it impossible to imagine he had planned everything — that he planned to die that day.
But we will never know and that’s what is so hard in all of this. About 4pm that day (Sunday) we were all getting pretty worried about him. My mum and I called all his friends and nobody had heard from him.
He loved GAA and it had been a huge outlet for him over the years so we thought, hoped, perhaps he’d gone off with some of those guys who we didn’t have numbers for.
Despite all our appeals on social media, we heard nothing that day. It was heartwrenching to try to sleep that night knowing, well, knowing nothing really but actually feeling deep down that nothing would be the same again.
We found out later that my brother’s life had ended that Sunday. But it wasn’t until Monday night that he was found in a nearby park — the park we played in as children.
The guards arrived in and we all just howled. We knew. Dave had suffered from depression and had attempted suicide once before when he was younger.
We naively thought he was doing ok — that the help he received had helped. But life was just too painful for him. We had begged him to stay alive for us but he couldn’t, he didn’t know how.”
World Suicide Prevention Day is today, September 10th. It is traditionally an awareness day in order to provide worldwide commitment and action to prevent suicides.
As we navigate our way through to the end of this pandemic, it is time to rethink mental health. Suicide is now recognised as a public health issue in almost every country in the world as rates increase gradually, making this a major cause of death worldwide.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Psychiatrist Dr. Mais Jain explains: “Some individuals due to their inability to cope with the stress or lack of adequate support mechanisms, finally find suicide as an option. However, the word ‘option’ itself indicates that there are choices,” he adds.
But Laura says that her brother didn’t see it that way — that he couldn’t see past his depression. “Dave got over 500 points in his Leaving Certificate. He wanted to be a pilot. He was so smart. He knew where to go for help but his mind was exhausted from fighting the monster of depression.”
She believes that there isn’t adequate support and would like to see dedicated mental health clinics widely available, even for walk-in appointments.
“If you break your arm it is an emergency and you can go get it fixed. There are too many hurdles to jump when you have a mental health problem. We are fighting stigma, shame, red tape, long waiting times, under-resourced hospitals… If it was exhausting for us, I can’t imagine what it was like for my brother.”
Laura agreed to speak about her tragic loss to encourage others to open up about their mental health struggles. “I know it is a cliche to say ‘just talk to someone’ but I also think we should all know the correct way to help someone who does come to us to talk when they are feeling like this.
“Because the words you say do make a difference. I wish I had time to say more of them to Dave.”
*We have changed names to protect Laura’s privacy.