A familiar echo from the families bereaved by suicide is that their loved one is not just a statistic but a human being.
The UCD research programme also allowed for families to participate in a unique science/arts project to “rehumanise” the lives of those lost to suicide through images and personal belongings.
Among those whose child is featured in the Lived Lives project was Pat Devaney, a father of four from Rosses Point, Co Sligo, whose daughter Neasa took her own life in Aug 2008, aged 17.
The red dress that Neasa wore to her debs two weeks before her suicide is the central feature in the space allocated to her memory.
For Pat, his ongoing interaction with the project in the years since Neasa’s death is in the effort to try and prevent just one more family from suffering a similar tragedy.
He strongly identifies the need for a figurehead to champion awareness and prevention of suicide in a similar manner to the way in which broadcaster Gay Byrne has been to the forefront in campaigns to reduce road deaths through his role as chairman of the Road Safety Authority.
“I don’t understand how the Government can knowingly watch this and do nothing about suicide,” said Pat.
“We want somebody who is able to bring the issue of suicide into the lives of young people and to convey the message that suicide is not the answer.”
Pat, who works in the ambulance service, is a firm believer in the use of graphic imagery to drive home important information that there is help for people struggling suicidal thoughts.
In relation to Neasa’s death, he explains that she did not display many common risk factors identified with suicide, such as a history of mental illness.
“She was a bubbly, outgoing beautiful girl with big blue eyes who was very popular among her friends,” said Pat. “She was so popular that we didn’t realise that she was being cyberbullied. It was something that only came to life after she died. We knew absolutely nothing about it.”
Pat said he and his wife, Vera, decided not to pursue the matter after initially consulting with gardaí; they did not wish to ruin anyone else’s life as they recognised that people change as they move from adolescence into adulthood.
“But we do want them to understand that we know,” said Pat. “Cyber-bullying is another area where we need to raise awareness across society.
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