TD becomes emotional as she recalls suicide

Fianna Fáil TD Lisa Chambers became emotional yesterday in the Dáil chamber recounting the story of a young man who died last year from suicide.

Ms Chambers, was speaking as TDs approved her party’s new Mental Health bill, which seeks to strengthen the rights of inpatients to make decisions about their own treatment.

The Dáil passed the bill unanimously and it will now be sent to the Seanad.

Fianna Fáil health spokesman James Browne, who sponsored the bill, welcomed its passage and said the contributions during the debate had been passionate.

Mr Browne said he hoped any amendments made in the Seanad would not prevent the bill from being enacted. But it was Ms Chambers’ contribution which stood out during the emotionally charged debate.

Recalling the death of 21-year old Ben Garrett in Co Galway last year, the Castlebar-based deputy became emotional when she reflected the impact it had on those left behind.

“He was involved in the boxing club where my brother and sister still box. He went on to become a member of the Defence Forces,” she said.

“He took his own life in Co Galway where he was posted,” she added.

Having to pause to collect her words, Ms Chambers spoke movingly about how Ben’s mother appealed to young people to talk to their own parents if they are in trouble.

“I recall the search effort that went on for in excess of a month. The boxing club and all of his school friends were involved in it. They were walking along the edge of the River Corrib in Galway searching for his belongings and searching for Ben.

“The impact that had on those younger people, my brother and sister in particular — I recall that Ben’s mother took them all aside and said they must remember the impact that this has on families, they must talk to somebody, tell others about the difficulties they are having and for God’s sake stay away from drugs and alcohol,” she said.

Sinn Féin’s Pat Buckley, who has lost two brothers to suicide told the Dáil: “ There is no colour, class, creed or religion, and there should be no politics, when it comes to mental health and suicide prevention, because it affects everybody across the board.”

Closing the debate, Mr Browne said the amendment that was expected to take no more than 15 minutes but resulted in almost three hours of contributions, was an indication of “the real determination that people have in the area of mental health.”


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