By Jimmy Rhatigan
YOU WOULD have heard a pin drop.
An attentive audience of over 400 dwelt on every word from a caring mother who spoke about a family’s loving relationship with a 33 year old son who took his own life.
Her utterings were enlightening, frightening for some and possibly opened up old wounds for families who may have been down the same road.
But the courage and sheer class delivery of a message of hope from retired Kilvemnon National School, Mullinahone Principal, Teckie Brett, mother of the late Neville Pio Brett, had to be enlightening too, perhaps refreshing, certainly encouraging for some as she told her story, warts and all.
And, the fillip for those who may have been searching for a light in an at times very dark tunnel, may have been Teckie’s optimism, healthy thinking and hope for the future.
But the news was not simply good or bad from Teckie, who along with former Olympic medallist, Ken Egan was a guest speaker at a Suicide awareness Gathering in St John O’Loughlin Memorial Church.
There was an in between, a grey area maybe where her emotions meandered from hurt to calm, to anger as she spoke about so-called suicide statistics.
The mother of four admitted that suicide and statistics make her angry.
She said the World Health Organisation estimated that over one million people worldwide, die very year by suicide, meaning that there is a suicide death every 40 seconds.
Estimate was that those figures will double by 2020.
She added that Ireland had the fourth highest suicide rate in the world based on recorded deaths by suicide.
“I repeat, recorded deaths by suicide.
“I was stunned to be asked by the coroner as to how our family wanted Neville’s death recorded. I said we wanted it recorded as suicide because that’s what it was and always will be.
“It’s time that we had proper statistics in relation to suicide in this country,” she added.
“I was proud of Neville in life and I am certainly not ashamed of him in death. My belief is that suicide figures would be three to four times greater than what the Central Statistics Office is telling us.
“This is about priorities. Money can always be found to give politicians huge increases in salary. The priority for 2018 must be to pump more money primary education, the vital formative years for youngsters, into anything that will prevent our people from feeling that they have no option but to end it all.”
Teckie pleaded with her listeners and the greater community to think twice before any of them reported the death of anyone by suicide or otherwise on social media.
“My son’s tragic death was posted on Facebook before we had time to notify other members of our family and friends.”
She spoke of how finding out after the death of her son, a local business entrepreneur, of his many wonderful Christian acts of charity had helped to ease the pain of loss.
Neville had paid fees for students who otherwise would have been unable to return to college. He had distributed food to homeless people living in doorways.
He had distributed milk and bread gratis to customers, local families, who could not get to shops in harsh weather.
“It was obvious that Neville had made a huge impact on everyone he had met in his all too short 33 years. That was again borne out by the thousands who attended his wake and funeral. He would have been surprised and chuffed.”
Teckie spoke of the days after Neville’s death when she quickly realised that she had two choices, get up and go or sit in a corner and cry for the rest of her days.
“I know that the last thing our fun loving Neville would have wanted was for my husband and I and any of my children to be miserable for the rest of our lives.”
She said she know that some were of the opinion that those who died by suicide were selfish individuals.
“I have to totally disagree with this. I believe that most contemplating suicide or who die by suicide are the direct opposite.
“They carry out the terrible act in the belief that their families, friends and indeed the world would be a better place without them.
“Life is full of contradictions. People with serious illnesses, gambling, alcohol and drug addiction and many who are sleeping on the street manage to live in hope and cling to life, yet many who appear to have everything, die in despair.
“There wasn’t a selfish bone in my son’s body. Yet he and other good people like him can end their precious lives by the most painful methods.
“If, by speaking here tonight, I could prevent even one person from taking this awful, tragic, irreversible, painful step into an early grave, I would be a very happy woman.
“I firmly believe that one has to be in a very, very dark place to ever consider suicide and if you are someone who has ever or is considering it, please, please think again and seek help and never bring this pain on your family and friends.
“I believe there is a solution to every perceived problem, but we must have the patience to find it. We must learn to cope with losing as well as winning.
“What seemed like a huge problem last week has the habit of not seeming quite so big this week.
“But there is no comeback from the grave,” Teckie concluded.
Thanks went to Councillor Joe Malone and Aisling Keoghane who had organised the fifth gathering where funds went to Teac Tom, charity Zamda and to local lad, Conor McQuillan for his continued good work for the Street Children of Zambia.