The mother of a teenager from Kerry whose terminal cancer inspired him to exhort his peers not to take their own lives, has urged those with depression to seek help early.
In the foreword to a mental health booklet of personal stories from students and staff at University College Cork, Elma Walsh writes that it is “hard work to keep from relapsing and usually takes more than one attempt to ask for help”.
“Remember, the Black Dog starts off as a pup and if there is early intervention, that dog could turn out to be a Dalmatian where we have good and bad days and are better able to cope with them.”
She writes that her son, Dónal Walsh, who died in May 2013, understood this “and wanted his friends and young people to climb their mountains”.
“Dónal knew that a mountain is a challenge and not easy and maybe sometimes on the way up or down we all need to ask for help,” she writes.
Her son came to national prominence when a letter he wrote made a plea for an end to the suicide epidemic among young people at a time when he was desperately clinging to life.
The collection of stories in the My Mental Health Matters booklet, produced with the help of a grant from the Donal Walsh #LiveLife Foundation, set up to spread his anti-suicide message, includes a contribution for JP Quinn, the head of the visitors’ centre at UCC, who shares his experience, with a moving article entitled: My mother killed my black dog.
UCC nursing student Linda Creedon — whose silent video about her own struggles with mental health went viral last year — also contributes. Linda engaged in self- harm as her depression worsened and contemplated suicide. “Destructive, self-harming behaviour came into the picture. It was also becoming more and more tempting to just end everything then and there.”
Linda attributes her recovery to the positive experience she had at Pieta House. Pieta House provides a free, therapeutic approach to people who are in suicidal distress and those who engage in self-harm.
An anonymous 20-year-old male contributor to the booklet, who believes his depression was triggered after his best friend took his own life, writes: “Mental health is like anything else worth having, you have to be willing to work for it”.
Fiona O’Donnell, a student at Athlone Institute of Technology who came up with the idea for the booklet which she started while on placement at UCC, describes the collection as “honest snapshots, at times dark but ultimately uplifting”.
Ms Walsh said the booklet continued the message that Donal left, “to appreciate life and to live it to the full”.
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