Posts Tagged ‘ suicide ’

Be Who You Want To Be, Not What Society Expects You To Be

lgbt

On the 2nd of November 2013, in the Lone Star State of Texas, as he has done for many years, the incredibly talented Oscar Award Winning Screen-Writer and LGBT activist Dustin Lance Black encouraged people to “tell your stories and you can change minds”. I am a heterosexual, 22 year old student from Dublin and I am ready to speak out. I am ready to express my disgust at some of my fellow citizens.

My story begins nearly 54 years to the day before I was born. On the 1st of July 1937 the people of the Irish free state decided with an
overwhelming majority to accept the provisions of a new constitution, Bunreacht na hEireann, that would set Ireland free and open up a new window of opportunity by giving Irish people the chance to succeed.

However, we are still awaiting the full enactment of the constitution. The constitution states that “all citizens, shall as human persons, be held equal before the law”. That simply is not worth the paper it’s written on. People will give me the spiel about Ireland being a democracy but I would not be writing this today if that was the case. A democracy is not just a country in which people can vote but in which people can live and not just exist. Of the group I will talk about today, the LGBT community, people, my fellow countrymen and women, find this community or group of people, hard to comprehend, hard to accept. How can people who engage in that sort of activity actually exist at all? People make choices in life and in a so called democracy they have the right to live their lives as they and only they wish to do so. Continue reading

Hurling Star Cusack Reveals Battle With Depression

conorcusack

Former Cork hurler Conor Cusack has opened up about his battle with depression on his personal online blog.

Cloyne forward Cusack, brother of heroic rebel county goalkeeper Dónal Óg, revealed his story to the world in the wake of Galway hurler Niall Donoghue’s death. Continue reading

Trust In The Green

image01

A music event called Trust in the Green is being arranged for the 29th September to take place in St Stephen’s Green bandstand in Dublin. The purpose of the event is to raise awareness on the issue of Suicide and the supports that are available and funds for Pieta House (a support service for people at risk of suicide and/or engaging in self harm).

The event is called Trust because there are many things we need to remember to trust in when we are down. Trusting that people care and that there is support available is a big one. There is a long list of things to trust in which can be found on the event website http://www.trustinthegreen.com/. Continue reading

HSE Reports Reveal Stabilisation In Suicidal Behaviour

hse

In advance of World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10th 2013, Minister for State with responsibility for Disability, Equality, Mental Health & Older People; Kathleen Lynch, today launched three reports on suicide and self-harm. The reports were launched at an event in the Department of Health which showcased the work underway by a range of organisations and community groups in the area of suicide prevention.   Continue reading

Senator Calls for Tax on Smartphones

File:SeanadEireann-800.jpg

Fine Gael senator Catherine Noone has called on the Irish government to implement a new tax on smartphones, one which would apparently function as an additional levy alongside VAT.

“The issue of suicide and suicide prevention is again under the spotlight in recent days, thanks in no small part to the inspirational message of Kerry teenager Donal Walsh,” she said as reported in thejournal.ie. “While government funding for suicide prevention has actually increased this year, I think we need to be looking at new ways in which to fund suicide prevention measures. Placing a small levy on the sale of smartphones could be a very simple way to generate extra revenues for this crucial area.”

Continue reading

Group Ready For Trip To Hell And Back In Charity Fundraiser

PHA group of eight are set to go to hell and back in an attempt to raise much needed awareness and funds for Pieta House, the centre for prevention of self harm and suicide.

The group, spearheaded by Catriona Bergin are running in two teams of four in memory of her brother Aibhne.

Two of the team members, Catriona and her cousin Jason Joyce, have written exclusively for Irish News Review in an attempt to show the country just what to hell and back is all about.

Catriona

I would sincerely like to thank all who have sponsored us so far. We have raised an amazing €1,405 to date…THANK YOU!

Keep it coming.

Just a reminder of why we are doing this……

Aibhne was a big brother, a son, an uncle, a father, a husband, a friend and an accomplished athlete. My big brother Aibhne committed suicide in January 2012 and there’s not a day goes by that we are not affected by this, we miss him, we question the reasons why, we wonder if we could’ve done something to change this and we suffer silently. There are so many people who have been affected by suicide, it is greater than the loss of a person, a friend, a family member, it is the utter devastation that is left behind that makes it so difficult to bear.

When you have a cold, cough or flu you go to your doctor, when you have a toothache you go to your dentist, when you are suffering mentally with stress, depression you sit still and bottle it all up because going to see someone about your mental health is embarrassing, shameful. This needs to change! The HSE struggles to cope and charities like Pieta House can and will only survive with your help and continued support. I hope that we can all help families in need by supporting this worthy charity http://www.mycharity.ie/event/berginshellback/.

Jason 

We are participating in Ireland’s 10k to Hell and Back on the 27th of January, aka Ireland’s toughest 10k Challenge.

Designed, built and customised by a former member of Elite Army Ranger Wing, the Hell and Back Challenge has now been tested and approved by the best – and is unique in commanding endurance beyond belief. With military precision, this challenge will take place on the Kilruddery Estate, tormenting competitors both physically and mentally.

Some of the challenges involve barbed wire crawling, running though swamps, rivers, The Pond, Satan’s Pit, and the Shock of Horrors (if unsuccessful – we will get electrocuted).

HELLANDBACKCOURSE

To train for this specifically is difficult. You need to focus on endurance and power and have a plethora of mental strength. I think the memory of Aibhne will give the latter. My sister and cousins are putting in serious effort with running up mountains and doing various types of training including boxing, circuits and yoga.

Regarding my training, I’m lucky because I’m in the middle of pre-season GAA training with Round Towers senior football team in Clondalkin. We are working on power and endurance specifically. Training involves circuits of TRX, boxing (sparring with each other), kettle bells, flipping tractor tyres, and sprinting while pushing a sleigh full of weights. That focuses on power and is very tough both mentally and physically.

We also have one football training session a week focusing on endurance. On top of this I add in one run a week where I’m pushing it @75% max capacity. Last week I did a 6.5k run in thirty minutes and will push that to try do 8k in under forty minutes this week and hopefully 10k in under fifty minutes the following week. This programme leaves me with three off days a week, two days are active recovery for thirty minutes and one is complete rest.

Mental health awareness is poor in Ireland and this has to change. So many people look to be living happy lives and yet no one knows what is going on in their heads if they do not speak. Suicide is getting worse with the highest incidence among young men. I believe the main reason for this is because young men feel it’s a sign of weakness to talk about their feelings or show vulnerability. Believe me; I used to be one of those people. Instead, they sit in silence and suffer until they feel in their own mind there is no alternative solution.

It is coming up to a year of the passing of my team mate Ciaran Carr, who died of Sudden Adult Death Syndrome (SADS) while we were training. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about that night or Ciaran. On the day of Ciaran’s funeral, I received the information about Aibhne passing away. My life got flipped upside down and I didn’t know whether I was coming or going. Looking back at it now, I wouldn’t be where I am if I hadn’t spoke to someone. The support I received through friends, my girlfriend, family and the wider community was incredible and being able to talk to people helped significantly. I can’t highlight enough the importance of mental health and I will literally go to hell and back to spread the awareness.

I believe that supporting Pieta House and the great work it does is a very worthy cause. I also understand that times are tough financially so any donations no matter how big or small are greatly appreciated. Anyone interested in donating can do so by visiting http://www.mycharity.ie/event/berginshellback/.

Fear not, Irish News Review will bring you up to date with how the group got on, if and when they return from Hell and Back.

Cyber-Bullying: The Story So Far…

cyber_bullyingLast Saturday, the 24th of November, Lara Burns was found dead in the stables next to her home in Co. Kildare. At only twelve years of age Lara had seemingly decided she could not go on any longer and taken her own life. The youth who was just three months into her first year at Maynooth Post Primary School is survived by her devastated family, mother Helene, father Robert, stepfather Noel and brother, Brendan.

Tragically, Lara is the third young girl to take her own life in recent months. Her death follows that of Erin Gallagher (13) from Co. Donegal and Ciara Pugsley (15) from Co. Leitrim who took her own life in September. As we all know and understand suicide is a complex issue which not only results from depression but a series of socio-cultural factors. However, in the case of these three girls cyber-bullying has been considered a primary factor in their horrifically premature deaths.

Claims that Lara Burns had been the victim of bullying first came to light after her brother Brendan who wished to pay tribute to his sister set up a special Facebook page in her memory. While he simply but poignantly wrote “RIP sis” many other contributors to the site made reference to the bullying Lara should never have had to endure.

Yesterday, after speaking with a source close to the Burns family, The Daily Star reported that Lara had in fact battled self harm issues in the period before her death. Apparently the youth had been working closely with and receiving emotional support from Pieta House, a group which provides help for those suffering from suicidal thoughts. In the wake of their daughter’s death the Burns family actually requested that in lieu of flowers at the funeral mourners donate to this particular group.

Having discovered that Lara was self harming for quite some time many are worried that the girl suffered at the hands of bullies for much longer than was originally thought. Naturally, due to the seriousness of this case and the growing epidemic that is cyber-bullying Gardai will be investigating further.

The Statistics

It is a little known fact that more people die as a result of suicide each year in Ireland than in road traffic accidents. While older people, especially men, are typically thought of as the most vulnerable group this is beginning to change and we are seeing suicide affecting increasing numbers of Irish people across the lifespan. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) youth suicide is growing at the fastest rate. In fact suicide is now considered one of the three leading causes of death amongst those aged 15-44 (male and female). Disturbingly, the WHO also found that youth suicide rates in Ireland are the fifth highest in the European Union whilst a separate report published by the Irish Medical Journal has revealed that there has been a 16 percent increase in a 20 year period in the rate of suicide in Irish teens under the age of 17.

Social Media

Thanks in part to ever changing hormone levels the teenage years are widely understood to be some of the most turbulent and vulnerable of an individuals entire life. Unfortunately today’s teenagers are facing greater challenges and dealing with more pressure than ever before. Simply inhabiting this world requires a person to deal with pressures resulting from alcohol, drugs, sexuality, sexualisation, body image etc. Of course technology despite all of its wonderful aspects also has a part to play. Today, your average teenager has a cell phone, a Facebook account, and probably numerous others (Bebo, Twitter or ask.fm anyone?) Obviously I am not suggesting we simply cut off these lines of communication but it is of the utmost importance that we recognise the dangers that come alongside them. There is no denying that there has been an influx of social media sites in recent years and I like so many others believe this is one of the major problems affecting teenagers today.

Today, if you don’t have a Facebook account you’re considered weird and lets face it no teenager wants to be considered strange. Not having a link such as this to their friends can make a fourteen year old feel like a social outcast. However having a social networking account (accounts in many cases) provides a direct channel to that individual meaning that if they are in fact being bullied they are contactable outside of school hours, at night time at the weekend, always.

The Problem With Anonymity

Typically, people have the confidence to say things they otherwise would not – both good and bad things – when a screen separates them from the individual they wish to speak to. Ian Power, communications manager of SpunOut, a youth organisation which aims to put an end to cyber-bullying, believes that this is how and why cyber-bullying so often spirals out of control. Power believes that what many individuals say online is more often than not something they would never say in “real life” In his opinion the “rise in the past year in the number of websites that allow anonymity” only exacerbates the issue. With the privilege of anonymity tormentors often feel that they can hurl even more outrageous insults and comments at their victims. Insults such as “I’m sorry to hear you tried to kill yourself. Next time finish it” This comment was aimed at a young victim of bullying here in Ireland. One website that grants users total anonymity is Ask.fm. This controversial site has found itself at the centre of both Ciara Pugsley and Erin Gallagher’s deaths.

Ciara Pugsley

Ciara Pugsley, who attended St Clare’s Comprehensive School in Manorhamilton Co. Leitrim, took her own life just last September after becoming the target of a vicious hate campaign launched against her online. The fifteen year old’s tormentors primarily used Ask.fm to abuse her. Among the comments the teenager received were ones telling her she was fat, ugly, retarded and that she lacked all self respect. Another individual, perhaps the same individual, then made reference to her depression questioning whether or not she was just pretending to be in pain in order to get attention. Heartbreakingly, the last message to appear from Ciara on her account was a response to the question “whats been up with you?” to which the teenager replied “u’ll see soon.” Shockingly vitriolic comments concerning Ciara were even posted online following her tragic death.

Erin Gallagher

Six weeks later, in a strikingly similar case, thirteen year old Erin Gallagher from Ballybofey, Co. Donegal was found dead after informing her online contacts – friends and tormentors alike – that she was considering killing herself following a bout of abuse suffered on Ask.fm. Again the comments aimed at Erin were much the same as those aimed at Ciara. The thirteen year old was dubbed a “fat, ugly tramp” by tormentors who once again preferred to remain anonymous. Multiple references were also made to the fact that Erin had been physically assaulted by some of the same girls. In a comment posted on Friday, the day before the thirteen year old died, Erin responded to bullies who were poking fun at the fact that she had been badly beaten by another girl and perhaps even had some of her hair pulled out during the attack

“Do u think ur funny bullying me over ask.fm? Yeah u prob think it was funny when I f**kin put a rope round my neck cause of yous, yous are that sad! Leave it now u had ur f**kin fun get over it! My hair wasn’t all over the ground trust me plus stop going round saying I got a bald patch I had or have no bald patch”.

Calls To Ban Controversial Site Ask.fm

In her Facebook tribute Erin’s older sister Shannon Gallagher wrote “I love you darling. It’s so hard to say you’re gone. Everyones heartbroken. I couldn’t have asked for a better sister. You were a stunning girl. No one deserved what you went through. I’m sorry that I couldn’t prevent it. Love you with all my heart” which actually spurred an outpouring of grief from family, friends and sympathisers across the nation and those who wished to call for an end to the now supremely controversial site Ask.fm.

Calling for an end to the site was Peter Sweeney who wrote:

“Erin is a 2nd year student who went to a local school here in Ballybofey who tragically due to bullying ended her own life. An absolute waste of a young life who had so much ahead of her. She was on a website called ask.fm where a lot of the bullying took place, and I call for it to be banned. Rest in peace Erin.”

Shockingly another user, Laura O Sullivan, who echoed Sweeney’s sentiments admitted “My own sister had the same trouble with that ask.fm, had a suicide letter written also, my mum found it thank god.”

Founder Of Ask.fm Defends His Site

Responding to the negative press Ask.fm has received following the death of these girls the sites founder Mark Terebin told RTE that he sympathised with the families of the victims adding “We do understand the gravity of the situation… of course there is a problem with cyber bullying in social media, but as far as we can see, we only have this situation in Ireland and the UK… It seems like children are more cruel in these countries.”  Having been further pressed by the media to comment on the situation at hand Terebin then issued another statement saying “Mass media is knocking on the wrong door. It is necessary to go deeper and to find a root of a problem. It’s not about the site, the problem is about education, about moral values that have been devalued lately. Don’t blame a tool but try to make changes… start with yourself. Be more polite, more kind, more tolerant of others.” He then went on to blame the medias coverage of these suicides for further deaths amongst teenagers “Suicide is not something to encourage via mass media. The more you promote suicide, the more it happens.”

It’s true, Ask.fm was quite innocently set up as a social networking tool that would allow members to ask questions and seek advice on various topics. It was never intended to be misused and abused the way it has been by certain members of the public. I’m sure cyber-bullying was never something website developers intended to encourage. There is also truth in what Terebin has said: we should be more tolerant of and nicer to others. However Ask.fm’s terms of service clearly states: “You will not, directly or indirectly, transmit any obscene, offensive, threatening, harassing, libellous, hate-oriented, harmful, defamatory, racist, illegal or otherwise objectionable material or content.”

Mr Terebin has gone to great lengths recently to point out that his site is just like Facebook or Twitter – a mere social networking tool – perhaps then it is time that he admit that he does in fact have a responsibility to the many users of his website. No, I do not believe that shutting down Ask.fm will eliminate cyber-bullying or teen suicide but Mr Terebin simply cannot continue to deny all culpability. The fact remains that each and every websites content must be monitored and managed and that is precisely why the founder of this particular site has tried to transfer the onus of responsibility to the shoulders of so many others. Certainly I do not wish to imply that the deaths of these girls are his fault but it seems to me that Mr Terebin should refrain from implying that the “cruel” children of Ireland and those who work in the media are to blame. In my opinion these are two incredibly naive statements. One simply cannot tar all the teenagers of Ireland with the same brush and an educated person would never suggest shutting up when it comes to suicide or depression for that matter. For years we have struggled to overcome the taboo status of suicide here in Ireland something we are only now succeeding in. It has long been acknowledged that communication is the key to battling both depression and suicide, given the statistics we saw earlier this is not the time to revert to silence and secrecy.

Anti Bullying Campaigners

In the wake of Lara Burns recent suicide Mr Jonathan Pugsley, father of Ciara , has come forward to express his sympathy for the family saying “It is devastating to learn that another young girl has taken her own life. My heart goes out to the Burns family because I know what they are going through” He also appealed, once again, to the politicians of Ireland to take “urgent action” to prevent more deaths amongst our young people. “I’ve tried to research all of this and it seems to me that the politicians in this country have spent the past 10-12 years talking about bullying but have done nothing about it.” Mr Pugsley said adding “The time for talking is over. We need urgent action now and urgent policies now to prevent further deaths.” Thanks to impassioned and dedicated campaigners such as Mr Pugsley and the tireless work of organisation’s like The National Anti Bullying Coalition (NABC) it seems our leaders will set in motion the changes this country so badly needs.

Following the success of the Tools for Teachers programme developed by teachers Sean Fallon and Mary Kent which provides free expert training in the recognition and elimination of bullying in schools across Ireland the NABC has urged Education Minister Ruairi Quinn to develop and implement an anti bullying system within Irish schools that is at least as effective as that devised by Fallon and Kent. “So please, Minister Quinn, use the authority you already have under the Education Act to initiate the end of this misery for students and their families now. For some of our teenagers, there is no time to lose, and next year may be too late” said a spokesperson for NABC recently. Fortunately, it is now expected that the minister will present an action plan expertly devised by members of The National Behavioural Support Service, the HSE and National Educational Psychologists to the NABC in the coming days.

Meanwhile, also petitioning for change is Minister for Justice Alan Shatter who wants to examine in further detail the prospect of prosecuting cyber-bullies. Addressing members of the Dail Shatter explained that bullying was a form of harassment and as such fell within the provisions of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997. Whilst he acknowledged the difficulty in prosecuting bullies and the need to remain both practical and realistic he also said that he hoped to learn from countries such as Scotland and Australia both of which treat the matter extremely seriously.

At this point anything that would contribute to the recognition that bullying is not acceptable within schools, the workplace or any other environment is warmly welcomed by the people of Ireland. Until then it is important to remember these guidelines issued by SpunOut.ie for combating cyber bullying:

  • Ignore the bully – Do not respond online.
  • Keep some evidence of the bullying. Take a screenshot of the comments being posted to sites and retain all text messages.
  • Confide in someone you trust such as a friend, family member or teacher.
  • The most important thing of all is to speak up. Do not suffer in silence.

Naturally bullying contributes to feelings of depression so I also spoke to Sandra Hogan of AWARE to hear what advice she had to offer those suffering from depression. This is what she had to say:

“Anyone who might be affected by depression or concerned about a loved one can access information and support which is available. Our website www.aware.ie contains lots of helpful information about the condition and about our support services. Once you know what you are dealing with, it is that little bit easier to find coping techniques and minimise the impact it has on your life. There are some helpful resources aimed at young people such as spunout.ie, jigsaw and headstrong. Getting professional advice from a GP or other appropriately qualified health professional is important too.”

Please, whatever you do just remember there is truth in the old idiom “A problem shared is a problem halved” and speak out!

By Kerri Mitchell

For those coping with or affected by depression/suicide

Childline: 1800 666656 or text list to 50101

Parentline: 1890 927277

Teen Ireland: 1800 833634

Console: 24/7 helpline 1800 201890

3Ts 24/7 helpline: 1800 247100 or text “help” to 51444

HSE Suicide Prevention Helpline: 1800 742745

AWARE: 1890 303 302

Pieta House: 01 601 0000 or email mary@pieta.ie

Cyberbullying advice websites

Expert advice at webwise.ie

Academic based research at cybertraining-project.org

SpunOut.ie