I've lost just too many friends to suicide. People I worked with, people I went to school with, people I socialised with, people I've acted with and played football with. All unique. All different. They had varying professions and occupations, various loves and losses.
Some of them were undoubtedly depressed and this depression was obvious in them when they temporarily shed the facade that they used to shield themselves from the glare of the world. Others were not so obviously depressed. Some had planned their suicides for some time – nothing left unsaid, no friend spared an explanation or a note. To partially explain but to prevent the possiblity of an intervention. Other friends took their own lives because of shame at having to confront their families with scenarios of which their families would disapprove. Others because they just felt that life was too unwelcoming a place to be, lonely, isolated, feeling unloved and feeling invisible.
I must admit to feeling terribly sad the other night when I heard Robin Williams had died. I’d known for some time that he had been battling addiction and depression problems; that behind the smile that created a million laughs and smiles, lay a man who was terribly tortured, burning up on the inside, forced to put on a brave face that so many expected, a consummate performer when he was not in his own company; a tormented soul when he was. His death created a genuine sadness across the world and showed that depression is no respecter of boundaries or affluence.
His emotions are those felt by thousands of you reading this this morning. The feeling of nothingness and desolation that depression brings is not the preserve of the rich and famous – it is just that theirs is exposed under a brighter spotlight. In thousands of homes across this region, such a light is not shining on those who feel the same fears and that is a sad indictment of the way we perceive mental health issues in this country.
The issue of mental health is one that has been shoved under the carpet for too long. The stigmatisation of the concept of 'taking to the bed' has frightened people into bottling up their own fears. That they'll be told to 'pull themselves together' or to 'snap out of it.'
But there is no simple ‘snap out of it.’ Battling depression requires the support of family, friends and the use of specialist tools for recovery available from the likes of Pieta House, Console, Aware, and The Samaritans.
There is no reason why depression hits someone. Asking why is a fruitless question. Like the weather, there are good days and bad days, but with the specialist help, there can be more good than bad. These services supplied are free of charge and that is why it is essential that you generously support any of these at times when they come looking for your assistance.
Do not be shy about it all. The men and women who go to seek out these services are the brave ones. Every seemingly insurmountable problem can be reduced or eliminated when dissected through discourse. Everyone is capable of loving and being loved. Sometimes the world can seem like a scary place, but if we take each other by the hand, we can lead ourselves back into the light.
My friends would have contributed much to the world, their communities, their families, and their friends if they had been able to reach out, and share the pain which would have abated with discussion and support. I hope that some of you reading this will take the action today to have someone take your hand and to show you that it really is OK to say you’re depressed and need help. The following services will reach out that embrace.
Samaritans, 14 Nuns' Island 091 561222; National telephone: 116 123
Pieta House West, Bishop Street, Tuam - Phone: 093-25586
Console 24-hour helpline, 1800 247 247.