Martina Cassidy from Aghanloo had never been on a plane until Monday when she completed a parachute jump, but the heart stopping adventure wasn’t for fun - it was Martina’s way to raise awareness for a cause close to her heart.
The mum of three lost her brother Thomas to suicide 14 years ago. He was 23 and his untimely death hit Martina hard.
“We were very close,” said Martina of her brother, just a year younger than her. “He was happy go lucky, always jolly; the life and soul of the party. I never thought there was anything wrong with him.”
Last year, Martina lost her uncle, John McCloskey - who she was close to - also to suicide. It brought back all the grief and heartache she experienced when her brother died.
“I was very close with my uncle as well and, when he died, it just brought everything that we had been through with Thomas back,” said Martina. “I took it bad and I said to myself, ‘I need to do something, even if it just helps one family’.”
In that spirit Martina decided to raise funds for ZEST - a counselling service for those affected by suicide and self harm.
“To be honest, and I’m still going through it all myself,” said Martina. “I know it’s hard for people to come forward, and I think people might think if they come forward all they’ll get is sympathy, but it’s professional help and that is what people need.”
Martina said any nerves on Monday disappeared as soon as she jumped from the plane.
“It was brilliant,” said Martina. “I’m still buzzing from it.”
She said during the descent she thought of her brother and uncle, and how they would be proud of her.
“I did it because of them and because I don’t want any other family going through what I did.”
Martina raised £3,947 for ZEST from a dance held in The Dolphin in Gortnaghey at the weekend, and from the jump. Coolessan Community Association in Limavady made up the shortfall to reach £4,000.