‘We need to give people the chance to talk and then listen’
By Mary Dennehy
IN THE wake of the community-led Sunrise Walk through Kingswood, Tallaght mother Jean Haas has reminded people to listen – and to remember that a smile on a person’s face doesn’t always reflect how they feel inside.
Jean Haas lost her 18-year-old son Christopher to suicide in February 2013, a tragic loss that traumatised his parents, friends and neighbours - who, in an attempt to help other young people, established a community-led awareness and education service called NINA for Life Suicide Awareness.
Tallaght Person of the Year Sinead Tighe started the Sunrise Walk
The group holds a number of community-based events including education and training workshops, a buddy bench programme, an awards initiative that recognises the kindness of students in local secondary schools, a family fun day, Sunrise Walk and introduces young people to activities such as hiking.
NINA also promotes awareness and provides information at grass roots level, while trying to break the stigma around mental health.
Speaking with The Echo after the recent 5th annual Sunrise Walk, Jean spoke of the need for more awareness – and also commended Coronation Street for raising the issue of male mental health so “delicately”.
“Christopher was a strong, healthy, fun-loving young man, who showed no signs of struggling,” Jean said.
“You don’t know who is struggling, just because someone has a smile on their face doesn’t mean they are not struggling in their head.
“I think Coronation Street dealth with the issue very delicately and that’s coming from a parent who went through it.
“What upset me was the scene where the young man was sitting in the pub with his friends who were laughing and joking and nobody noticed the pain he was in.
“This was what it was like with my son in the weeks before he passed away, he was partying, out with friends and singing and whistling.
“He was still smiling but in pain, and we hadn’t got a clue.”
She added: “I would encourage people who are struggling to reach out and when they reach out, we need to listen.
“Us Irish are very good at saying ‘how are you?’ and then walking away.
“We need to give people the chance to talk and then listen.”
On Saturday, May 12, more than 320 people met at the Kingswood Community Centre for the Sunrise Walk, with all money raised going towards education and awareness around positive mental health locally.
According to Jean: “The walk was a truly fantastic yet emotional experience.
“It was a privilege to walk with each and every one of you and it was a heart-warming way to remember those who have gone before us, and to give hope to people suffering now.”
The walk was opened by Tallaght Person of the Year Sinead Tighe, and local Fianna Fail councillor Charlie O’Connor read a poem.
NINA wished to thank everyone for the support, including Kingswood Community Centre, DIGI Print, the Red Cross, photographer Noel O’ Connor, Lynda Bridgeman, Kingswood Foroige Kids, Paul Dalton, Pauline Dalton, Jenny McGrath, Annie Murray Sullivan, Danny Hass, Kieran McGrath, Philip Corcoran, Paul Brown and everybody else who helped out on the day – and those who walked.
For further details on NINA, which does all of its own fundraising, visit the NINA for Life Suicide Awareness Facebook page.
If you require support, contact Samaritans 24 hour Freephone helpline 116123, Pieta House LoCall helpline 1800 247 247, HOPE 087 1363082 or Childline at 1800 66 66 66.
For more pictures from the Sunrise Walk, pick up of a copy of The Echo.