SEVEN years since her son died aged 21, by suicide, Patricia Mulryan, from The Glen, and her family are still trying to come to terms with the tragedy.
“I have my good days and bad days”, she says. “It never gets easier. I’m afraid and I worry about my other four children all the time, even though they are all grown up.
“If I don’t get a text or a phone call from them when they are out, I start to panic. I know that I’m too protective of my other children after Paul’s death. It’s like I want to put my hands around them all and keep them close to me.”
Patricia described her son, Paul, as a sensitive young man, saying he had a “gentle soul”.
She says; “I knew, since he was a young child, that he was only ever on loan to me.”
As Paul got older, Patricia started to notice that he was struggling to cope.
“I took him to the doctor. The doctor prescribed him anti-depressants because he had what I can only describe as a black look in his eyes.”
She was so concerned for her son’s well-being that she would keep a watchful eye over him as much as possible.
“When he would leave the house, I’d stop him at the door and ask him to promise me that he would mind himself. If he was going to his sister’s house, I would call her and ask if he arrived safely. I followed my Paul everywhere because I had a gut feeling that he was going to leave us. The one night I didn’t follow him, it happened.”
Seven years after Paul’s death, Patricia still carries the pain of loss. As a member of the Glen community, she works alongside other community members and community groups, in an attempt to help families that have been affected by suicide and mental health issues. One such group is Shine a Light Suicide and Mental Health Awareness Group.
Ann Long, a Community Development worker with Cork City Partnership in The Glen Outreach Office, is a key member of Shine a Light.
“The main aim of the group is to work towards lowering the incidences of suicide in the community and increase awareness around mental health and suicide,” says Ann.
She explains the work that the group do.
“Community groups, like Shine a Light, play a vital role in suicide prevention. We help support people who have suffered the loss of a loved one to suicide.
“We also help people who are looking for support for a family member or friend who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts.
“We also support counselling costs for people whose loved ones have died by suicide. We can only do this work with the generous donations made by the public.”
Shine a Light are organising their next fundraiser in conjunction with ABLES Adult literacy programme in The Glen.
Fiona Long is the manager at ABLES. She has worked in The Glen for more than 25 years and has seen the impact that mental health issues can have on the community.
“I understand the impact that mental health issues can have on a family — the disruption, feelings of powerlessness, the stigma surrounding these issues, the feeling of having nowhere to go,” said Fiona.
Art classes are run at the ABLES centre. Fiona noticed that the people who took part in the art sessions would report feeling relaxed whilst painting or drawing. She says the quality of the work being produced in the classes was astonishing. “I asked the staff at ABLES if they would adopt Shine a Light as a chosen charity to support, as it is a local group and not government-funded. We decided to help raise money for Shine a Light by offering to sell our paintings at affordable prices to the community here in The Glen.”
Liz Kavanagh is a practising artist and the art tutor at ABLES. Liz says that art-making in any marginalised community helps people to “connect with each other and with their own creative selves. It helps break down stereotypes and build connections”.
Liz loves teaching art classes at ABLES.
“The most enjoyable aspect of facilitating art classes here in The Glen is seeing the quality of the work people produce and the high level of interest each artist brings to class.”
ABLES, in conjunction with Shine a Light, are holding an art sale on Thursday, November 22, to raise funds to help facilitate the work carried out by Shine a Light. They are inviting people to come to the ABLES office on Carnloch Avenue, The Glen, and paint a picture in the period running up to the sale.
All artwork will be sold on Thursday, November 22 from 10am to 10pm.
Fiona says: “We would love for anyone in the community to come in and paint a picture for the charity sale or buy a picture on the day of the sale, or preferably both.”
The art sale is also supported by Learning Neighbourhood.
Learning Neighbourhood in The Glen will be launched at ABLES on November 22, alongside the art sale. A Learning Neighbourhood aims to build a culture of lifelong learning across various Cork City neighbourhoods. Community groups collaborate with Cork City Council, UCC, CIT and the Cork Education and Training Board to promote active learning.
Ann says: “The art sale is a great example of the type of work that builds a Learning Neighbourhood. People from The Glen are popping in and out of Liz’s art classes to paint pictures for the sale.
“Two local artists, Jamie O’Keeffe and Steven Long, have donated pieces to be sold on the day. As well as that, staff at Wisetek, based in Dublin Hill, were inspired by our community’s energy. They are raising money to help support Shine a Light. This really is going to be an event for the community, by the community.”
Artist Jamie O’ Keeffe is originally from The Glen. Growing up in the area, he lost friends to suicide. The 28-year-old artist is keen to support the fundraiser by donating a piece of his artwork.
“I want to paint something for the sale that has a sense of hope in it,” says Jamie.
Patricia, meanwhile, is also heavily involved in organising the art fundraiser that is being run by ABLES and Shine a Light.
“I feel that I am doing something positive. By helping raise funds, I am contributing to helping someone else’s child in some way.
“If there was enough money raised to get one child into counselling, it might help save a child’s life,” she says.
Ann, from Shine a Light, reiterates Patricia’s sentiments.
“Information is a powerful tool. If we open up the conversation on mental health and listen to what people are saying, we can start the process of breaking down the stigma attached to mental health and suicide.
“The more information and support that families have, in relation to their loved one who is suffering, the better a plan can be put in place to support people.”
Contact Fiona Long: ABLES Literacy Programme, Carnloch Drive, Glen Avenue, The Glen: 086 6087111 email@example.com
Or call Ann Long: Shine a Light, 087 1308913 Along@partnershipcork.ie
If you have been affected by the issues raised in this article, call the Samaritans on their free confidential 24/7 helpline on 116-123. You can email j o @ s a m a r i t a n s . i e or contact Pieta House National Suicide Helpline on 1800 247 247 or text HELP to 51444.