September 10th marks World Suicide Prevention Day. The impact of COVID-19 on mental health has been widely reported and really highlights the need for days like today.

Life can be challenging, and many people will need help to get through those challenges. That help could be a chat with a friend or reaching out to a professional – the important thing is to be aware and to ask for help if you need it.

If you think someone else is suffering take this chance to check in, a small text could mean something big to someone feeling alone or overwhelmed.

To mark the day, raise awareness and remember all those who have lost a friend or family member to suicide, Aileen McCann from our Servisource team has shared her story below.

World Suicide Prevention Day – Aileen’s story

The 19th of October this year will mark 6 years since I lost my mother to suicide. This isn’t something I ever thought I would hear myself say or put down into words.

My mom was called Lily and she died at the young age of 63. She had a job she loved, a house she had decorated to look like a wee palace, 3 healthy children and 4 grandchildren to live for. Unfortunately, this was not enough.

If I’m honest, my mom had a difficult childhood and this, on top of the pressures of today, brought with it her illness which they called “depression”. I had taken her over the years to every doctor, counsellor, psychotherapist, healer and psychiatric hospital I could think of.

They all tried to help and at times it did make some change to my mom’s behaviour and her illness, however eventually the illness overwhelmed her and at times would take over days, weeks and at times even months.

My mom also suffered from alcoholism and battled this for many years. In the later part of her life, she became sober which I was so proud of, but the depression really took hold of her after this and simply dragged her down.

My mother’s experience

How did it affect her? My mother was a very stylish lady and would travel to Donegal or Kerry to visit a boutique to buy an outfit. Her depression stripped that all way, my mom no longer cared about her appearance and wouldn’t wash or dress.

She loved spending time with her grandchildren, but she eventually made excuses as to why she could not visit them or why they could not come and see her, she stopped going to work and eventually she would take to the bed for days. In her words “this is where she felt the safest.”

On the day of the 19th of October, I was on my way to my mother’s house to share the news with her that I was finally pregnant, this was news I knew she would have been so thrilled to hear as my husband and I had endured 5 years of great difficulty in conceiving and even lost a baby only a month prior. Instead of sharing this news, believing this would be the news that would break the illness, I had to break into my mother’s house to find her dead.

As I am writing this my eyes are filling up with tears. I miss her dearly, so so much every day. On the day of her funeral, I read a poem and I remember not being able to look out into the church as it would hurt too much to see all our family and friends who had travelled near and far to be with her.

My mom couldn’t see this and truly believed as a result of her depression that she was not loved and would be better not being here anymore.

Spotting the signs and reaching out for help

I don’t share this story today to make you sad or upset, I simply shared my story today to tell you my experience with mental health, to share the impact issues from the past can have and the pressure society can put on us and to tell you It is ok not to be ok.

Since my mams passing, I suffer from depression and anxiety and only for watching my mom and seeing the signs I would not of went and sought help.

If anyone of you knows me, I am the most outgoing person you will meet. As my manager Declan says I never keep my mouth shut and always have something to say, I am the organiser of a night out, love going with my friends and I get my energy from other people, but over the past 6 years I have suffered and at times suffered badly.

There where days I could not get out of bed and go to work, like my mom feeling safe at home, then the next day I would put on my “FACE” as they call it and go see my friends, go to work and pretend all was ok. I got away with it for a long time until a very close group of my friends sat me down and told me I was not OK.

I went to my GP where he prescribed Antidepressants and I commenced my counselling with a lovely lady called Anne. I now know the signs of my form dipping, if I am under too much stress or if my mom’s birthday is coming up and I mind myself. I go see a friend, buy something nice for myself, get a massage or watch a movie. I do something for me.

So, for today I am asking you to mind yourself. None of us are perfect, no one knows what is going on behind closed doors and it is important to look out for those around you too.

If someone seems a little off, they might be quiet when they are usually chatty, or angrier lately, simply asking them if are they OK can be enough -a text message to say “I’m thinking of you” or asking them for a cup of tea. Small gestures can have a big impact.

I know my mom’s life here on earth was a sad, lonely and difficult place for her and I have accepted she is now at peace. If I could help a mother, father, sister, brother or anyone to not have to go through losing someone this way by telling my story I will be most grateful.

Thanks for letting me share my story. 19.10.2014 Lily O Reilly RIP

Support

  • Call Samaritans on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.ie, available 24/7
  • Call Pieta on 1800 247247 or text HELP to 51444, available 24/7
  • Call the Aware Support Line on 1800 804848 or email supportmail@aware.ie 
  • Call the Irish Hospice Foundation Bereavement Support Line on 1800 807077
  • Text YMH to 50808 – a free and anonymous text support service, available 24/7

If you or someone you know is suffering please reach out to a professional. You can find full information on the HSE website. You can also read our professional’s guide to managing employees with mental health issues here.