Despair at daughter’s suicide

Taking part in the sky diving fundraiser for Youthlife are, from left, Megan Kelly, Orlagh Cunningham, Lee Casey, Carla McFadden, Debbie Robertson and Ciara Duffy. (2206PG01)
Taking part in the sky diving fundraiser for Youthlife are, from left, Megan Kelly, Orlagh Cunningham, Lee Casey, Carla McFadden, Debbie Robertson and Ciara Duffy. (2206PG01)

To everyone who knew her Sinead Robertson was a lively and outgoing 22 year-old who showed no signs that she would take her own life.

The fact that Sinead was the life and soul of the party only served to deepen the sense of shock of her many friends and family when they lost her on August 26, 2011.

Mum Debbie finds it hard to put into words the effect of the loss of her daughter. “When we learnt of Sinead’s death, it was disbelief and shock. The whole family have been devastated at this loss. The feelings and emotions you are left with are indescribable, unbearable. No sleeping, no eating, not thinking straight, all of this overwhelming. Each family member tries to help one another but are afraid to upset one another at the same time.”

Nobody had an any indication that such tragedy would visit the family. “Sinead was lively, outgoing, had many friends, was loved and liked by everyone. She had a great sense of humour and was the life and soul. She loved going to concerts and made new friends everywhere she went. People just loved her company. She was a very kind and charitable person, always willing to help out. She had just done a bungee jump for charity in June and was going to do nursing,” Debbie explained.

In the emotional turmoil of the aftermath of Sinead’s death, Debbie and her family turned to local organisation Youthlife for help. “I found Youthlife through Barry McGale, (Western Trust( Suicide Liaison Officer. I talked about my young son and how I could help him. He suggested Youthlife. We went and Bridie Sheridan invited him on a Safe Futures residential weekend for those who are bereaved by suicide. He was apprehensive but he went and I’m so glad he did.”

Youthlife provided Bridie’s son with an important outlet for his feelings. “Being able to talk to other young people who are in a similar situation gave him confidence to talk openly about his emotions. Everything that is discussed is totally confidential. I feel Youthlife has had a great impact in our grieving process. I could see an immediate change in my son when he came back from the weekend. A weight had been lifted from him.” Bridie was so impressed with the improvement in her son’s outlook that she too took part in a Safe Futures residential weekend. “I felt totally at ease and a lot of emotions were dealt with. The weekend is a process of personal experience and group activities. I would recommend Youthlife to anyone who has experienced loss, the staff are dedicated and caring, the people you meet will always remain your friends.”

As a thank you for such support and guidance in dealing with their bereavement, Debbie will today take to the skies for a big charity sky-dive challenge to raise much needed funds for the charity.

“I am organising the sky-dive to raise money for Youthlife so that anyone who is bereaved can experience the help and much needed support that my family have received. If anyone wishes to make a donation they can do so by contacting staff at the Youthlife Centre.”

Debbie will also hold a Youthlife charity night in Tinney’s Bar on Saturday, June 30. Tickets are available from the Youthlife Centre, 23 Bishop Street or at the door on the night. Speaking to the ‘Journal’, Bridie Sheridan of Youthlife, explained that the organisation is unique in Derry, delivering a wide range of therapeutic programmes to young people and parents who have experienced bereavement and loss. “Over the years we have experienced an expansion to our work as we respond to the changing needs of young people who present to us for help. One expansion was the development of the Safe Futures residential programme for young people and adults bereaved by suicide. Our residential programme is based on the model recognised by Dr Elizabeth Kubler Ross who identified the five stages of grief, denial, anger, bargaining, sadness/depression and acceptance.

“Our non–time limited counselling service is delivered to young people from the age of 5 - 25 years. Our recently developed Youth Health Café, funded by BIG works to engage young people across all levels of need.”

Anyone who would like to make a donation can do so at Youthlife, 23 Bishop Street, Derry, BT48 6PR or at Bank of Ireland, 20 Shipquay St, account number 44879096.