A Derry mother who lost her son to suicide has warned that such tragedies are affecting so many people they are now “almost as common as the flu” in the city.
Bebe Johnston was speaking ahead of a special Mass she has organised for local families and others affected by suicide.
The Mass will take place at St Eugene’s Cathedral in Derry on Wednesday March 4th at 7.30pm and is open to everyone.
Ms Johnston lost her son Eamonn (22) to suicide in July 2007. Derry was back at that time rocked by a spate of similar tragedies, and many of the deaths were linked to drug use.
Despite this, Ms Johnston said the problems locally have “actually got worse” in the years since.
“No-one is even addressing the need for emergency help,” Ms Johnston said.
“In the seven years since Eamonn died there has been nothing that makes a real difference in terms of an emergency service. The services that are there are only open until 5pm.
“We need something set up badly, we need a rapid response, on-call system. How can you prevent suicide if you are not there?
“When you used to hear the helicopter out, you used to think that there’s trouble somewhere; what’s going on? Now you think, ‘somebody went into the Foyle’.
“I don’t think parents are really informed about the drugs that are out there. I speak to parents that haven’t a clue their children are on drugs.”
Ms Johnston revealed how recently she spent three hours on the phone trying desperately to find emergency help for a suicidal young teenager who had tried to taker her own life and been taken to hospital but was discharged soon being brought there with two tranquilliser tablets. Ms Johnston said that at one point she was advised to contact the police if the child was feeling no better.
The Mass at the Cathedral meanwhile is aimed at bringing people together and providing comfort and solidarity with all those going through difficulties or who have experience of suicide.
Ms Johnston said: “Everybody knows somebody. It mightn’t be a family member, it could be a friend, a friend of a friend. With suicide you are left with so many questions. Not a day goes by when you don’t think about things.
“It does hurt you when you hear of other ones dying through suicide. It has just been horrendous for Derry.”
Ms Johnston is also the organiser a number of annual ‘From the Heart’ charity concerts in memory of her son and others who took their own lives, and aimed at highlighting the need for better suicide prevention services.