A place to turn to in the aftermath of a suicide

When suicide strikes a family and community its impact is far reaching. First of all there is the suddenness of this tragedy, the realisation that the deceased is gone. Then there are funeral arrangements, a wake, the whole shaking hands process to be gone through before they are lowered to their final resting place or their ashes are scattered somewhere meaningful to the deceased and their family.

What then? When all the formalities are over, the family have time to start asking questions, seeking answers. Grieving in their unique way. But where do they turn to for help? As suicide has become an increasingly hot topic for debate and discussion within the media, we must not forget that behind the figures and statistics are real families and communities whose lives have been utterly turned upside down.

The rate of suicide in the Mayo area has been revealed as one of Ireland’s highest for 2012. Suicide figures released by the Central Statistics Office show Mayo had 19.9 deaths by suicide per 100,000 people last year.

While the small drop in suicide deaths in the 15 to 24 category is welcome, Ireland still has around the fourth highest rate of suicide for this demographic and this clearly needs attention.

The problem seems to be that there are so many suicide charities and groups springing up all over the country that if you ask someone on the street if they are feeling suicidal or if they have been touched by suicide where would they turn, most people couldn’t give you an instant answer. There needs to be cohesion in this area. An organisation that instantly comes to mind for a person considering taking their own life but seeking help, and an instantly recognisable brand for those coping in the aftermath of a suicide.

That’s why the launch of the Mayo Suicide Liaison Project today (Friday ) must be welcomed. The project was set up to support the family, partner, relatives, friends or colleagues of a person who has died by suicide. A dedicated and specifically trained person will meet families of the bereaved and link them to the appropriate services.

This project is a collaborative effort by the HSE and the Family Centre, Castlebar and is based in the Family Centre. A steering group with representatives from all the key stakeholders was set up as well as a family advisory group of nine people, all previously bereaved by suicide. It is people like these who have made a real and significant contribution to the development of this service.

Mayo Suicide Liaison Project has published a very informative and useful leaflet, written and compiled by Mayo people who have been affected by suicide. In ‘When someone you love dies by suicide’ this paragraph is directed towards a person coping in the aftermath of a suicide: “The road will undoubtedly be long and hard but many Mayo people have walked it before you and they are now vibrant examples of what the human spirit is capable of. These people will tell you that they were once in a place of inconsolable grief where they could not imagine ever being able to smile again, let alone live a full life once more. They are enjoying life again and some of them will even say that, while they still deeply feel the loss of their loved one, they are now better people than they ever were. In struggling along the hard path they learned so much of value about themselves, the nature of love and the incredible joy of living.”

Anyone wishing to avail of this service can contact the Family Centre, Chapel Street, Castlebar on 094 902 5900.

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