A Dublin community that lost several young women to suicide recently is planning events to "bring people together, celebrate life and look out for each other".
Spearheading the initiative, taking place in Ballyfermot this September, is Warren Dempsey (30). His sister, Andrea (22), died by suicide on April 28th. Since then four more women in the largely working-class suburb, all in their 20s, have died by in the same way.
At the funeral of Zoe Flynn (24) earlier this month, Fr Joe McDonald said the deaths of so many young people in recent months "must give concern and raise questions for us".
Mr Dempsey says his sister, who worked as a carer, "always appeared bubbly, happy and such a confident girl". But on reflection "it was a front . . . she was broken inside".
It seemed it had been done, dealt with. He'd been arrested and charged
She was obsessively body conscious, he says, and perhaps relied too heavily on alcohol and, for a time, cocaine “to pick her up a bit”.
He, his parents Ann and Martin and his brother Roy have spoken since her death about the impact being sexual abused as a child had on her.
“It seemed it had been done, dealt with. He’d been arrested and charged. My mam wanted to get his name out there, have him shamed, but Andrea never wanted it public. She never wanted to give him that, for him to know how devastated she was by it. She always said, ‘no, I’m not going to let him know he got the better of me.’ It massively did though. It destroyed her confidence.”
Looking back, he says, she tried to communicate her struggle.
“Andrea would send me a photograph of her sitting in the kitchen with a shoulder of vodka she’d got and say, ‘a shoulder to cry on’ with a laughy face. The underlying message in most of her messages was that darker side and I never copped it. I never took a step back and asked, ‘what’s wrong little sister?’ That is a huge regret.
“That’s why this event is so important. It’s a celebration but it’s also to remind people that something so simple, to ask your loved one, ‘how are you?’, tell them they’re loved and they’re important. I want people to come to this event to show they care. Actions speak a thousand words and people coming en masse will say a lot to people who are struggling. Not everyone likes to speak.”
Up to 50 acts, including musicians, bands, dancers and DJs will perform at the main event, on September 8th in Le Fanu Park. A march and vigil, at the civic centre, in memory of those who died will be on September 10th.
Mental health service provider Jigsaw, crisis intervention trainers Assist and Storm, and other local services will be there offering support and information. The event is supported by the Health Service Executive, Dublin City Council as well a public representatives.
It was thought out. My mam was the last to speak to her, at about 6am
Though no one anticipated it, Warren believes Andrea must have been thinking about suicide for some time.
“It was thought out. My mam was the last to speak to her, at about 6am. My mam was on her way out to work. Andrea was bit upset about an argument and my mam told her to go to bed. My brother found her about 6.30am.
“She did leave a letter for my dad, which she must have written after my mam left for work . Between 6.00 and 6.20 she had a letter written out. She said, ‘I’m sorry I have to do this. I never meant to hurt you or anyone else . . . I’m just not meant to be here’.
“We just don’t know what’s going on in anyone’s head. If I had known, if we as a family had known we would have done something, got her some help. But I don’t think she wanted us to know. It was too much for her.
“That’s why it’s so important to talk, to pick up on the signs, and know about the services. I had no idea about the services available though I do know now, but I won’t get the opportunity to help her. I have no regrets about what I’m doing now and I think she knows that.”
If you are affected by any of the issues raised, you can contact:
Samaritans, freephone: 116123 or text 087-260 9090
Pieta House, freephone: 1800-247247 or text HELP to 51444
Aware, freephone: 1800-804848