As promised via twitter, I am currently doing the mother of all clean outs on my room. I’m talking under the bed, the window sill, the drawers, everything. And I don’t mean take everything out and tidy it all away neatly. I mean, I’m a hoarder so it’s time to clean everything out. A dramatic and adventurous post complete with pictures is on the way once I actually complete this task in the next week or two, but on a more serious note, this post just can’t wait.
I have covered a lot about mental health and suicide for a journalist of my age and status (non-existent status). I’ve written several long articles, including a two page spread and an editorial in the college paper and one of my columns in The Herald and I’ve interviewed several people on the subject, from experts and advocates, to family members and sufferers. I was always drawn to the subject because it was such an unspoken thing that affected so many people; I always felt I had never written too much on it, or covered everything that needed to be covered.
I never had the pleasure of interviewing or speaking to Donal Walsh, but I didn’t need to to be affected by his words and his message, as so many people were. His death upset me deeply and has hit the nation as a whole quite hard. It was remarkable what he did in such a short lifetime, more than most of us will ever manage to do in ours. But the one thing that really struck me was his message to those considering suicide as a way out. He said the unsayable. That it was a selfish act. That it made him angry, the fact that these people, young people, some people his age were taking their own lives when he had been constantly fighting for his life for years and had no say in when he would die.
While suicide and mental health problems are becoming less and less taboo, Donal’s notion of how angry it makes him is still not said. I guess people feel they can’t say it because they are talking about a person who died, a person who is or was going through something terrible. But there is the argument that so many others are going through terrible things too and their fate may already be decided for them, a fate they absolutely don’t want. And if that fate is the same fate that someone else takes by choice, I understand why that makes people angry, and that should be OK to say.
These people are not able to properly value life in the mind space they’re in and they need to seek help before deciding to carry out a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Funding in this country is cut left, right and centre, calls to help lines are going unanswered because of such little funding, depressed people are being put on medication that is making them worse. There are a lot of problems and dark mazes in the world of mental health problems and suicide. And there are a lot of long-term sufferers who have to keep it under control and the struggle can be very difficult.
But then there are some who were not suffering from any mental health problems; those who were not depressed, those who just went into a dark place, made a snap decision and saw no way out. Those children who were perfectly happy, then suffered bullying and decided there was only one way to end it. These are the people we really need to appeal to. These are the ones who Donal’s message really needs to get through to. Ironically, they might not need as much help as long-term sufferers, but they are still the ones who could take that drastic step and then they can’t take it back. They are the ones who need to know about the hurt they will put their family through, that this problem they’re facing has a solution and that if they hang in there and seek help, they will be OK.
Donal was a true inspiration, may he rest in peace.