An epidemic nationwide, suicide is leaving an indelible mark on Irish society. Ryan Gallagher spoke to Bernadine, a UCC graduate whose son Mark committed suicide at 22.
How was life before suicide?
“I enjoyed life, was happy and loved travelling, had everything. I enjoyed home life and my two children. I had just gotten married a year before my son lost his life. I had my son, daughter and my husband. We were all happy. I loved my job, still do.”
Do you know why Mark took his own life?
“No, I never saw suicide was coming. Never saw it existing in our family. He never showed any signs of depression. He was a young man of 22, loved work, had loads of friends. He loved life, was carefree. He bought me a second had car, he took out a loan and bought it for me. He used to play Texas Hold’em. A year before he lost a good friend, his best friend, in a drowning accident.”
Was he close to his sister?
“Mark and his sister (Mary) were very close. There’s four years between them. He was protective of her and stand up to people if they picked on her, even from a young age.”
What were your feelings at the time?
“He’s dead, he’s not coming back. I’d never see him again. I’d never talk to him again, like never hug him again and never have time together again with him.”
Did you seek help?
“I sought help straight away in the ‘Let’s Get Together Foundation’. They give you 6 weeks counselling for free, and then I carried on myself for a year, my daughter didn’t want any help at the time. I asked her and she said no. But three years later she went, she broke down and came to me and asked could I get her counselling.”
How did your family deal with it?
“Mary was devastated, she wouldn’t sleep in her bedroom cause their bedrooms were next to each other, she gave up college in UCC, wouldn’t talk to anybody, we were always fighting. We had no relationship. We were each in our own grief and didn’t want to hurt each other with what we were feeling.”
Do you think suicide is a selfish act?
“No, no. Not selfish. To know that you’re going to die and leave your family behind how can you be selfish? I think that you’re very ill and so down on yourself that you feel that I’m no good to my family. It’s an illness.”
How is your life now?
“Mary went back to college and is now doing a Masters. She got counselling in college. It has changed her but in a good way, she talks about suicide. We have to live life. I’m heartbroken. I think of him every day; what should have been. My future was gone when he died. I could have grandchildren, he could be married or be travelling the world. But life is good but it’s always in my heart and my head. It has broken her heart but changed her in a good way. My husband was devastated but obviously he must be strong to support for me. It’s very hard when you lose a child. More people talk to Mary about suicide. They’re more confident doing it around her.”
Who helped you?
“Counselling was slow. I went there for three months and all i did was cried. And then you start talking. Eventually your counsellor will say you’re strong enough on your own and that they’ll be still be your support.”
Do you think suicide is a taboo in Ireland?
“Yes definitely yes. We want to put it under a carpet. It happens to other people and not to us. When I was a bit younger we didn’t talk about depression. I can see a lot of young people talking about their feelings however young males still don’t. It’s changing slowly but too slowly for me because we’re still losing people.”
Do you have any advice for people suffering?
“A good friend or friends and just talk to them and share their feelings, you can go to your GP, I know young people get afraid talking to another person. You can text counsellors and everything. You can use the internet if you don’t feel like it until you build up on your confidence. I live my life now for my son. I could have given up and not got out of bed or gone to work. I honour my son this way by living my life.”