Family and friends hold candlelit vigil in memory of those who took their own lives
A thousand candles flickered in the darkened college chapel at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth. Each had been lit in memory of someone who had taken their own life. The annual Console Christmas Celebration of Light has become more and more a symbol of relatives and friends dismissing the notion of stigma and fostering a common understanding.
“They tell us it helps them get through Christmas time,” said Paul Kelly, the founder of Console, a charity that aims to help to prevent people from taking their lives, and to help those who have suffered loss.
“Christmas time is when we remember. This gives them that time and space where they feel safe with others who are on the same journey.”
The two-hour vigil included music, poetry and reflection against a backdrop of coloured lights and candles sending shadows dancing across the lofty church arches.
Singers Frances Black, Eleanor Shanley, Moya Brennan of Clannad and
her daughter Aisling, Britain’s Got Talent star Ryan O’Shaughnessy and Paul Harrington performed on the night.
RTÉ’s Eileen Dunne read poetry and broadcaster Christy Kenneally returned to his role as master of ceremonies.
It was an occasion of silent and dignified remembrance and it allowed families to share.
Eddie D’Alton from Templeogue in Dublin buried his son Shane on Christmas Eve four years ago. He was 23.
He had just qualified as an electrician and followed his dreams of moving to Australia where things took a turn for the worse. He had talked about coming home.
Eventually his father flew out to get him. Later they discovered Shane was battling chronic depression and he admitted himself to hospital. On Saturday, December 20th he was allowed to go home for a couple of days.
“We went out at eight o’clock to talk about him. We came back at 11. My wife found him on the bed,” said Mr D’Alton. He was still alive but died later in hospital.
“I had to tell my daughter the next day that he had died. She was nine. It was very difficult,” said Mr D’Alton, who has now trained to become a psychotherapist so he can help others to understand what he did not.
“The big thing is to get the awareness out there. We need to take people and make them aware of what depression is,” he said, noting the importance of last night’s event.
“People can see that they are not alone out there, that there is support and it gives them some hope,” he said.
Console is a nationwide charity that works to prevent suicide and its professional therapists attempt to reach out and help people. It also tries to help those who have been left behind. Mr Kelly founded it after his sister Sharon took her own life at the age of 21.
“That crushed my parents,” he said. “They felt they had no lives because they failed her. There are so many unanswered questions and the legacy of suicide is ‘why?’ ”
* See console.ie; or call their helpline on 1800-201890