Fiona Corby of Cavan Darkness Into Light. Photo: Lorraine Teevan

‘Suicide should never be an answer’

Campaigners want to break stigma as nine people die in Cavan since lockdown

A suicide awareness campaigner is urging people to open up and speak to someone if they are feeling depressed or having suicidal thoughts.

Fiona Corby, chairperson of Cavan’s Darkness into Light event, made the call as she revealed nine people had lost their lives to suicide in the county since the Covid-19 lockdown.

“Suicide should never be an answer for anybody’s problems. “Unfortunately, some people just can’t see that,” she said.

Darkness into Light is an annual walk held nationwide to raise funds for Pieta House, an organisation that works to prevent suicide and self-harm.

Fiona got involved with Pieta House to set up Darkness into Light Cavan. She volunteered nine years ago, following the death of her brother James to suicide.

“I love just being thrown in there and getting stuck in and helping out in any shape or form that I can.”

Fiona explained that Pieta House has seen calls for help double this year in comparison to last year, which she views as positive as it means that people are reaching out for help.

“We’ve never seen the likes of it before.”

The 17–25 year-old age groups are most vulnerable, with many concerned parents or siblings making calls to the organisation.

“People are just feeling the pressure - job losses, COVID, isolation, money worries, everything,” Fiona outlined some of the struggles people are enduring.

She said there is still a stigma attached to mental health issues, making it difficult for people to speak up.

Fiona said people find it difficult to say “I am not feeling well in my head and I have thoughts, I have suicidal thoughts... Can you help me?”

She wishes more people would have the courage to speak out.

Fiona says she “would be bursting inside” when somebody reaches out for help.

The services provided by Pieta House are funded 20% by the Health Service Executive (HSE) and 80% from public donations.

People “have been incredible” this year in going above and beyond to help the organisation, said Fiona.

“In Cavan alone I can’t even tell you how many fundraisers have gone on.

“We’ve been absolutely gobsmacked with people’s generosity and support in the times that we currently find ourselves in.”

Sadly, the support comes partly because the community has suffered so much tragedy in this pandemic year alone.

“We need to do something to protect our young, we need to get the message out there that there are services and people available to help you in your hour of need,” said Fiona.

She stressed that people need to talk about suicide in general.

“The more people that speak openly about suicide, the more other people are realising ‘wow this is not what I need, I need to get some help’.”

Fiona praised people on their ability to turn such a tragic event around in order to help others.

“It’s incredibly brave and powerful,” she said.

One such person is Aine Reilly from Drung who was described by Fiona as “a shining example to others”.

Áine, who lost her boyfriend to suicide earlier this year, set up a fundraiser on Facebook in May, which raised over €55,000 for Pieta House’s Cavan Outreach Centre.

Áine was overwhelmed with the response.

“It wasn’t just people from Cavan who donated, there were people from Dublin and all over,” she said.

Above all, Áine hopes that the fundraiser has raised awareness among people and reinforced the message that ‘it’s okay not to be okay’. “Just speak up, everyone wants to help. You really are not alone.”

The Darkness Into Light Committee held a Memory Walk last Saturday, December 19, to remember those who have been lost to suicide.

Fiona said the walk was to let people know “they are not alone; other people are going through this as well.”

Pieta House is a free service, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with no doctor’s referral required. If you are struggling, freephone 1800-247-247 or text the word HELP to 51444, to speak to a trained therapist in confidence.