Mother grieves over suicide of second child (15)

Fri, Dec 14, 2012, 00:00

Support groups have stressed the importance of young people in distress seeking support following the death of the teenage sister of a schoolgirl who died by suicide less than two months ago.

Shannon Gallagher (15) was found dead on Wednesday night, six weeks after her 13-year-old sister Erin took her own life.

Students at the school which both girls attended – Finn Valley College in Stranorlar – were being supported and comforted yesterday by staff and professionals.

The mother of the two girls, Lorraine Gallagher, last night described her sense of devastation and shock at the double tragedy. In a statement released through her solicitor, she described her two daughters as being the “lights of our lives”.

‘Devastated’

“We are just devastated by what has happened and we just can’t say any more. We are all just numb. We are lost for words to describe how beautiful they were and what they meant to us.

“We just cannot understand what has happened or why it has happened. There are no answers. We are just being asked for time to grieve and to give Shannon a proper burial.”

Donegal VEC, which runs Finn Valley College, said it was trying to find the appropriate words and response to the tragedy.

Chief executive Shaun Purcell said school staff and health agencies needed to be given time to support the community. “Our thoughts and prayers are with her family, school and community at this sad time.”

He added that a critical incident team was in place to support students and staff.

Shannon was found dead at the residence of her foster family in Castlefin, six miles from the family home, on Wednesday night. It is understood she had been in voluntary care for several days.

She is survived by her mother, Lorraine, brother, Sean James, grandfather, James, and family and friends.

Assistance

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn said his department’s priority was to provide support and assistance to the students and staff at the girls’ school. Psychologists were supporting staff and working with colleagues from the National Office of Suicide Prevention and the HSE psychology and adolescent mental health services.

Meanwhile, support groups said the deaths emphasised the importance of young people in distress seeking support. The Samaritans and the ISPCC reminded young people to seek help and/or share any problems they are experiencing with their parents or someone they trust.

The president of the Irish Association of Suicidology also urged responsible reporting from the media to help prevent what some refer to as “copycat” suicides.

Anyone in need of support is urged to contact the Samaritans on 1890-200091; Console suicide prevention on 1800-201890; or Childline on 1800-666666 or by texting “Talk” to 50101. A local HSE helpline for parents from Co Donegal who have concerns about their children can be contacted at 1850-400911.