Belfast Telegraph

Impact of suicide is laid bare by Emma

Editor's Viewpoint

There is a telling sentence in the insightful and emotional article written by Emma Reilly for this newspaper today about the effects of suicide on families.

She writes: "I don't think you (suicide) ever let those who have been bereaved through suicide to really live again. Exist yes, really live like they did before? Never."

Life can never be the same again. Suicide is unlike other forms of death by accident, disease or simply old age. It often leaves in its wake unanswered questions for those bereaved. They wonder why they never noticed any warning signs. They question what the trigger could have been to make someone, usually in the prime of life, take that life.

In the case of Emma and her parents the horror of suicide was multiplied - two of her sisters took their own lives within seven weeks of each other. As she says, at a stroke, she became an only child.

That was not something she could ever have envisaged. She powerfully compares suicide to an undetectable form of cancer, eroding its victims' self-esteem, self-confidence and self-worth, but so subtly that no one notices until the final, fatal trigger is activated.

And it is a cancer in society as a whole. In 2016, 297 people in Northern Ireland took their own lives, 76 of them females. Suicide can affect all ages and people of all social status.

Emma has bravely spoken out about her family's devastation in an attempt to alert others to this cancer in our midst. Her family never thought suicide would be a visitor to their home once, never mind twice. Yet it happened.

And that is a story countless other families throughout Northern Ireland can relate to. Huge efforts are made to alert people to the dangers of careless or drunken driving, speeding or any of the other offences which lead to death on our roads, yet the death toll from suicide is now running at more than three times that of road deaths.

Amid their own still raw grief, Emma and her family have raised more than £4,000 for a facility in Lisnaskea, Co Fermanagh, that aims to impact positively on the physical and mental well-being of people in the county.

That money has been gratefully received and will help in this vital work, but much more investment is required in mental health services to enable those facing a crisis in their lives to receive help when they need it, rather than facing unacceptable delays.

Emma's story should be a catalyst for change.

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