Encouraging Local Action for mental health
LA519 Parents organise fundraisers in son’s memory
A bereaved couple are encouraging people to host fundraising events throughout September to support mental health services locally in memory of their late son.
Following the tragic death of their 16-year-old son Luke by suicide in 2019, Barry and Deirdre Aughey decided to do something to improve access to mental health services in Cavan and Monaghan, which sadly have some of the highest suicide levels nationwide.
Two years later LA519 was founded. It is a small non-profit organisation based in Monaghan Town that promotes good mental health with a particular focus on suicide prevention.
“In March 2021, we were remembering Luke on his 18th birthday and we heard of another young lad who died by suicide. There were several others under 25 who died by suicide, all within a 15km radius, all of whom we knew. We said something was wrong and we needed to do something,” Barry tells the Celt.
The LA in the name stands for Local Action, but it’s also Luke’s initials. The significance of 519 is - May 19, when Luke died.
“We later learned that May is the most common month worldwide for deaths by suicide, and 19 is the most common age for deaths by suicide,” Barry reveals.
Rather than trying to make dramatic changes to how mental health is treated, LA519 seeks to promote increased awareness of current services.
“We want to be proactive and get out into the community. We partner with the national crisis line using current resources, so when someone texts LA519 to 50808 they will be immediately contacted by a trained counsellor who will help them get out of a tight spot and refer more help if necessary.
“It’s 24/7, free and anonymous. We also set up a website - www.LA519.com - which lists a lot of resources such as Pieta House, SOSAD, and many others.”
Barry says he was unaware of local resources when Luke was being treated.
“Luke told us six months before he died that he was having suicidal thoughts. We went to our GP who referred us to a child psychiatrist in the mountains in south Dublin. There were several follow-up appointments, which took a long time to get to, but we were lucky because we are self-employed so we could take the day off.
“From there we were referred to CAMHS. But he never got to see CAMHS. None of the service providers we saw thought to provide details for other charities, which came to a head a month after Luke died when my cousin mentioned SOSAD but, at that stage, I had never heard of them,” recalls Barry.
“CAMHS doesn’t go to see a child, which was a big problem for us as Luke was in a treatment centre, which was located near his school. There were a lot of stigmas there for him. We’d ask them to meet us in GP, or a hotel room or anywhere else, but they don’t provide that service, but some of the voluntary services do. We felt the need to bridge that gap,” he continues.
Barry said he would act differently now if he was presented with the same situation.
“When Luke told us that he was having suicidal thoughts, he was upset and didn’t want to die but he told us not to tell anyone. When your child opens up like that and asks to keep it a secret, then that’s what you do. We only told service providers, which left us in a lonely place. He died because he couldn’t get proper help on time, but we did what we thought was right. We didn’t realise there was a lot of support around us.
“If I was in that position again I wouldn’t have kept it a secret, and we would have used the other services.”
Barry feels that rural counties like Cavan and Monaghan “tend to be forgotten about by civil servants in Dublin” when it comes to allocating services and supports.
LA519 also provides talks to teenagers and young adults teaching them vital skills to cope with mental health issues.
“We also go to schools in all major towns - Cootehill, Kingscourt, Bailieborough, Cavan, Belturbet, Clones, Monaghan Castleblayney, Ballybay and Carrickmacross - to deliver resilience talks. We organise, facilitate, and pay for the talks, using several speakers. The talks range in age from primary school kids in sixth class, all the way to sixth year, with a different talk for all years. We also go to sports clubs, community clubs and workplaces,” Barry outlines.
LA519 also provides training to teachers to help people intervene early when it comes to suicide.
“We deliver Q.P.R. training to teachers which stands for Question, Persuade, Refer. It’s accredited front-line training, which was founded in Oklahoma University. It’s CPR for the mind and is just as important.
“It gives individuals the courage to ask the question if someone is suicidal and then what to do next. We also do mental health first responder, which aims to take the stigma away and lets people know that everyone has mental health issues that they suffer from at some stage.”
To raise funds for their services LA519 is encouraging people across Cavan and Monaghan to host a breakfast event and make a donation to them.
“All of the money raised goes to delivering services. We started the big breakfast in 2021. People hosted breakfast events in coffee shops, bars, restaurants, and even their homes and put money in a jar for us. It’s not about having one event, but a number of different ones across the community,” says Barry.
While September 10 marked World Suicide Prevention Day, the Augheys are encouraging people to host events throughout the month of September and also to be aware of their own mental health.
“It can be anything from breakfast to a quiz or even a cup of coffee. We’re also running a raffle on LA519.com until September 24,” urges Barry.
The main raffle prizes include a training top signed by Cillian Murphy, dinner for two in Snaffles Restaurant in Castle Leslie, a travel voucher for €150 for O’Hanrahan Travel, a voucher for Andy’s Bar & Restaurant in Monaghan and an overnight stay with dinner, bed & breakfast in the Kilmore Hotel.