15 years on from her own personal tragedy, Sadie O’Reilly launches a very special book remembering the many young people who left this earth too soon
It was a day Sadie O’Reilly said she would never forget – October 15, 1999.
The day she lost her beloved son Tony to a drugs overdose.
But 15 years to the day Sadie decided to use her own experience to help others by launching a special book ‘Remember Me.’ The book, launched on Wednesday has been printed in memory of young people who left this earth too soon as a result of suicide or addiction.
Speaking at the launch in the City Hotel, Sadie,who set up HURT following Tony’s death said she hoped the book would give people
peace of mind.
“I decided to put the book together after meeting a woman who lost her son to suicide, we had a conversation about how many young people in this town had died and how they are not remembered any where at all.
“So we thought about doing a book. I began contacting the families of young people who had died in the town and asked would they like to give me a poem or a story.
“It was then decided that we would call the book ‘Remember Me’ – we wanted to make sure that the young people were remembered not just as statistics but for the people they were. I wanted the book to give people peace of mind, there are people in the book whose families had never put pen to paper after their loved ones died, and I think for them, sitting down and writing was almost like therapy.
“Now they’ll be able to lift the book and remember their son or daughter and know that they haven’t been forgotten.”
Welcoming the publication of the book the Mayor Brenda Stevenson said there is always a need to be honest and open with each other.
“Sometimes we need to take the time in our busy lives to step back and listen to each other, acknowledge when something has gone wrong and then try and find the right support services.”
Local mum Ann McGarrigle spoke about how she lost her son Robert to suicide 19 years ago.
“It’s a day I’ll never forget,” she said. “My big blonde happy go lucky son took his own life, a permanent solution to a temporary problem. There is not a day goes by but I remember him.
“Robert was 19 and as a mother I felt I had dealt with most of things you deal with as the a mum to a teenage son, untidy rooms, coming home a bit worse for the wear. We talked all the time but never did I discuss suicide or mental health.
“I found the words from Eric Clapton: ‘would you know my name if I saw you in heaven…. I must be strong, and carry on, because I know I don’t belong in heaven. Beyond the door there’s peace I’m sure, and I know there’ll be no more tears in heaven.’ Just an extract that helped me in those early days.”
Ann revealed how Robert had packed so much into his short life playing rugby for Ireland and Ulster under 18.
“He was known to befriend many in times of trouble, he had friends from all walks of life,” she said.
“But a light went out for ever, an explosion went off in my heart and it was blown all over the place.
“Any bereavement is painful but suicide is extreme and for many reasons then the stigma attached that your loved one chose to take their own life. It’s quite natural to think you are going mad, so high you can’t get over it, so low you can’t get under it. You must go through the door, you must walk the walk, some walk, this walk of grief and loss.
“Do I still cry, yes I do because I miss him so much, there is a longing within me to see, hear or touch him. My vision now would be that no other family would have to experience the effect of suicide upon their lives. My family and I have come a very long way since that dark day but we will never forget Robert, our blonde haired son and brother.”
A number of people contributed to the book including Mark H Durkan who has kindly agreed to let the Journal print the poem he penned about his late sister Gay,
Poem written by Mark H Durkan about sister Gay
I’ve forgotten almost all of what happened that bright Autumn morning
When our lives changed utterly without warning
Taking the call, the feeling of shock and sickness
I swear it rained every day for the next six months as we struggled to find reasons, excuses and blame.
With darkness the struggle goes on, but why fight a battle I cannot win?
I prefer the light I remember you in.
When I feel the heat of the first sun of summer.
When I laugh out loud watching Dumb and Dumber…
Any time I play a prank
Or fight the pain doing the plank
When I’m with the people I love, having fun
Or when I’m out on my own for a run
When I see someone being kind to or caring for others.
I remember that I am one of your brothers.
I really hate that you’re gone –
you gave so much love and brought so much joy.
We had so much craic.
I still do but I miss sharing it with you.
But mostly I feel blessed to have known you
And proud to think I may have shown you
That I was worth your faith in me,
Miss and love you, your brother Mark and family xx
Article by Erin Hutcheon
On Monday drugs and alcohol charity HURT launched its new Strabane and Education Addiction Training (SEAT) initiative, a six month project aimed at helping young people, parents and school teachers understand the pitfalls of substance abuse.
The SEAT programme was officially unveiled after HURT secured grant funding from the local Policing and Community Safety Partnership.
A core strand of SEAT will be educating young people on the dangers of drugs, in particular legal highs, through school information events. These have already begun among pupils at Artigarvan Primary School.
Further information will be provided on addictions such as gambling, alcohol and solvents.
As well as highlighting the current trend in legal highs to young people at both primary and secondary level, community workers, teachers and parents will also benefit from the HURT programme.
The Addiction Awareness Programme is a two day course designed for teachers and community workers seeking to understand the addiction process, treatments and models.
Train the Trainer meanwhile is a three day programme which seeks to pass on the knowledge and skills necessary to recognise addiction problems and how to deal with them.
Over a six month period, HURT project workers Sinead McNamee and Natasha Howlett along with Dr Hugh Quigley will be rolling out all the initiatives across the Strabane district, through schools and through training programmes such as Rutledge and CRAFT.
HURT manager Dessie Kyle said they were particularly looking forward to engaging with over 300 young people in local schools and community projects.
“We are really looking forward to meeting with as many young people as possible and hopefully building up a longer term relationship with them so they are aware of who we are,” Mr Kyle said.
“We also want to make parents, community workers and teachers as confident as we can when dealing with issues because there is a big onus on them to spot the signs of drugs and how to make a referral where necessary.”
HURT founder Sadie O’Reilly said often intervention by parents in terms of drugs was vital.
“With parents, drugs are a major issue and we feel parents need to educate themselves on how to handle the issue. Often they go into overdrive when they find out their son or daughter has been taking drugs and that is where we come in – we want to teach them how to handle the situation,” Sadie said.
HURT has had a presence in Strabane for several years, providing counselling, complementary therapies and a listening ear service.
With the SEAT programme just about to go live, Dessie Kyle added, “We believe education is the biggest weapon in the fight against drugs and that is why we are so looking forward to rolling out the Strabane Education Addiction Training.”
To find out more details or to book a session with HURT, click here to contact us.
Thanks and well done to everyone who donated and climbed Mount Errigal on Saturday 24th May 2014 in memory of Kevin & Liam Downey.
CHILDREN as young as 14 are being suspended from school in Strabane for drinking and taking drugs, new statistics show.
Figures unearthed through a Freedom of Information request reveal that in the last two years three young people across the district have been sent home from school due to alcohol misuse. The Western Education and Library Board statistics also reveal that over the last 12 months a pupil was suspended for a number of weeks for misusing drugs.
The figures came to light two months after the PSNI expressed serious concerns about the use of legal highs in local schools. At a meeting of the Strabane Policing and Community Safety Partnership, PSNI constable Alan McGonagle revealed that ‘Magic Dragon’ was discovered on school premises, prompting teachers to alert police.
Meanwhile in March three teenagers had to be taken to hospital for the effects of alcohol following a mass St Patrick’s Day drinking binge at the local golf course.
Dessie Kyle is manager with north west drugs and alcohol charity, HURT. He said the figures, particularly around the use of legal highs, came as no surprise.
Mr Kyle said in terms of alcohol abuse, they were encountering people even younger than 14.
“I’m not surprised and we would come across this sort of thing at an even younger age,” Mr Kyle said.
“We work with a mixture of age groups and we are seeing the numbers increasing month on month.
“What that does is suggest that more could be done but in fairness to everyone involved, including the schools, they know the problems that exist and are encouraging greater awareness of the dangers.
“The problem is though that there is so much temptation out there and young people are feeling more under pressure all the time.”
Mr Kyle’s comments come days after the PSNI seized alcohol from a group of young people drinking at ‘The Meadows’. During a search of a young female they found what officers described as “an empty packet of a new pyscho-active substance called Exodus”.
Dessie Kyle said legal highs were a major issue across the north west but said he was pleased with the approach being taken by the PSNI to the problem.
“I think the PSNI are dealing with it quite well by not putting handcuffs on anyone they find with legal highs but rather offering support and making them aware of the risks.
“But we still have to acknowledge that people are dabbling in these legal highs and are having serious psychotic episodes afterwards,” Mr Kyle added.
STRABANE Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP) has launched an advertising campaign highlighting that taking drugs just once, can kill.
This campaign comes on the back of recent reports that drugs usage, especially among young people, has become much more socially acceptable than ever before.
The latest meeting of the PCSP in Strabane heard how legal high packaging had been found in a local school. It has since been claimed that children as young as 14 are using the drugs.
It was also reported at the meeting that but for the intervention of drug and alcohol awareness bodies, Strabane would have witnessed an increase in the number of young people taking their own lives due to drug addictions.
Chairman of Strabane PCSP, Thomas Kerrigan stated, “People throughout the Strabane District Council area are gravely concerned about how acceptable it has become for people to use recreational drugs. Time and time again, we are being told that the peer pressure among young people is leading to many young people dabbling in drugs. The mis-conception is that because everyone else is doing it, that somehow there’s no harm. Strabane PCSP wants to highlight that the first time you use drugs could be your last and could result in death.”
He added “Agencies such as HURT, DIVERT and PSNI recently gave presentations to Strabane PCSP on the availability of drugs in our district and what they have said is frightening. I urge all young people to think twice before they use illegal substances, as you have no way of knowing the long-term harm it can have on you, your friends and your family.”
Councillor Kerrigan was speaking after the public meeting of Strabane PCSP, which was themed around the issue of drugs.
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HURT (Have Your Tomorrows)
HURT support individuals and their families in all stages of recovery from alcohol and other drug problems.
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Saturday & Sunday: Closed
Tel: 028 7136 9696
14 Clarendon Street, Derry. BT48 7ET