Jeremy Irons unveils suicide memorial plaque in Kerry

Actor says those suffering from depression can be helped through love and friendship

Actor Jeremy Irons. File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Actor Jeremy Irons. File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

Actor Jeremy Irons has said that people suffering from suicidal thoughts can reach out and be helped through love, friendship and community, as he unveiled a memorial plaque to all those who lost their lives to suicide in south Kerry.

Mr Irons said he was delighted to be able to help highlight the issue of suicide by unveiling the memorial plaque in a community garden at Tech Amergin in Waterville, as it was important that people realise that they can overcome suicidal thoughts and lead full lives.

“Why should there be a suicide memorial plaque - why? Because, like in the last century nobody talked about tuberculosis if it was in the family, like 50 years ago, nobody talked about cancer if it was in the family, like 30 years ago nobody talked about a family member who was gay,” he said

“This is all real life, people are like that - sometimes people commit suicide, sometimes people think about committing suicide and it’s a terrible, terrible waste of life, and by recognising it we are not saying it’s good, it’s like by recognising evil one is saying, it is there but let’s try to avoid it.

“People who have those tendencies should be helped as much as they can be with friendship and love and community, with talking and having someone at the end of a phone who they can tell how they feel because it’s not that rare - deep depression and suicidal thoughts are not that far apart.”

Mr Irons said that people should realise that no matter how bleak the future appears, there is always hope, and what better way to remind people of that than with a memorial plaque in a communal garden which highlights that they are not alone.

“I have always been taught, it’s darkest before the dawn, and when I get really low, there’s a little bird in me saying ‘It can only better’ and it’s that little bird we want to put in the ears of people thinking of ending their journey in life - to say ‘Wait, it can better’.

“The fact that the firm has gone bust and your life’s work has been destroyed is not the end of the world - the sky and sea are still there, people are still there, friends are still there, community is still there - look in other places, don’t dwell on that one thing which makes you feel life is worthless.”

Tackle stigma

The suicide memorial plaque, which was erected beside a ceramic waterfall, was the idea of Peter Holthusen, who grew up in the UK but lives in Cahersiveen.

He said it was important that people tackle the stigma of suicide, which continues to exist in many countries.

Mr Holthusen, who lost both his great-grandfather and his grandmother to suicide, said that rural areas such as south Kerry are often “out on a limb” when it comes to funding for mental health services, but he hoped the plaque and garden will help highlight the issue.

“It’s not really even so much about today or Jeremy Irons or myself or anybody who has been involved in this, it’s about tomorrow and providing a focal point where people can come down at any time and contemplate the parting of a loved one and gain solace in the gardens here.”