CORK siblings who co-ordinated a four-day search for their brother, who it was later revealed had died by suicide, walked together once again to mark the anniversary of that painful time.
Fourteen years ago, Colm Twohig and his family searched high and low for their brother Liam, until his body was found by a neighbour. Sadly, he was not the last sibling to lose his battle with mental health difficulties. Just two years later, the family was faced with the death of another brother, Noel, who died in the same tragic circumstances.
More than a decade on from the search for their first brother, the siblings walked in solidarity again. This time, however, they were stronger than ever.
The walk, which marked the anniversary of that emotional time, was carried out to raise funds for Pieta House and done in conjunction with the Cork City Marathon.
The siblings hope that their message will encourage even one person to consider their family before making a life-ending decision.
Colm, his brother Fergal and sister Laura walked together as a show of strength for those suffering in silence. He spoke of how the first suicide they dealt with left them heartbroken.
“It was being announced on the 1pm news that Liam was missing,” he said. “His bank cards hadn’t been used and it was only those who were looking for him that knew up to then.
“I got a call at 12.55pm saying that a body had been found. It was my neighbour who had found Liam.”
He explained that it’s not uncommon for depression to run in families.
“So much of the time, there is a second member of the family that goes too,” he said. “I feel it’s more biological.
“Since my brothers died, I have spoken to other people who tried it, who said it was their only way out of ‘jail’.”
However, he stressed that there was no escape for families dealing with the grief of losing a loved one.
“Those four days were extremely difficult. We didn’t know if Liam was just missing or gone forever. Our mother knew he was dead, even though I wasn’t convinced. She prayed for God to bring him back to her.
“We know people who lost loved ones whose bodies were never found. I still thought that he was going to walk through the door, but mum knew otherwise.
“All she wanted was for him to be laid to rest.”
Two years later, the family was dealt another devastating blow when another brother, Noel, also took his own life.
“Liam was quiet and very withdrawn. Our brother Noel was the polar opposite, but each of them experienced depression in their own ways.”
A number of people suffering from depression have reached out to Colm. His main concern is about the rise in suicides among young people.
“The last thing I want to do is to glamourise suicide,” he said. “Anyone who takes their own life is leaving behind a lifetime of guilt and questions for their family.
“They are leaving them struggling with doubt about whether they did enough to save them.”
Colm said the traumatic experiences have brought them closer as a family.
“There are 11 kids, so it’s a huge family,” he said. “Before we lived our own lives but, since going through this, we’re doing a lot of things together again.”
Colm has gone on to dedicate his life to helping others and is known for his tireless work in the community.
“If someone is looking in any way down I will ask them if they are okay,” he said. “I’ve gotten to a stage now where, even if somebody lashed out at me for asking, it wouldn’t bother me.
“When you have experienced what we have, you tend to err on the side of caution. To date, I have never got a negative response.
“One man I spoke to approached me a week after I had seen him and asked the question. He said that he had been in a bad place and was really glad that I cared enough to ask him if he was okay.”
He is urging people to donate to Pieta House in the hope of saving as many people from suicide as possible.
- To donate to Pieta House, visit pieta.ie