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A spate of suicides and what we must do

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

The Aisling Irish Community Center organized a special Mass for family members and friends of sudden death/accident and suicide victims lost over the years which took place at St. Barnabas Church in Woodlawn on a recent Friday night.
Given the large attendance, and the sense of solidarity and consolation which emerged, it is intended to have a special Mass each year in memory of the lives of those young Irish men and women lost tragically over the years here in New York.
In the meantime, we hope that no father or mother, brother or sister will get a phone call from New York to say that their son, daughter or sibling has died or been killed in an accident.
No parent or sibling wants to make that journey to Shannon, Belfast or Dublin Airport to collect their loved one in a coffin, and bring them home to their final resting place.
The Aisling Irish Community Center will host a series of workshops/information seminars on various mental health issues throughout the fall and winter months.
The first seminar will be on the issue of suicide and will take place on Thursday, September 17 at 8:00 p.m. Among the guest speakers on the night will be a representative from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (www.afsp.org) with whom we have had an affiliation for many years.
The AFSP is a wonderful resource for anybody who is feeling suicidal, as well as for those who have lost loved ones through suicide.
For many years now, the Aisling Center has been the official location in Westchester County for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s (AFSP) National Survivors of Suicide annual web cast.
On Saturday, November 21, 2009, simultaneous conferences for survivors of suicide loss will take place throughout the U.S. and internationally. This unique network of healing conferences helps survivors connect with others who have survived the tragedy of suicide loss, and express and understand the powerful emotions they experience.
Each conference site is organized locally, but they are all connected in spirit as participants across the globe watch a special 90-minute AFSP broadcast together on that day.
Following the web cast, our counselors host a suicide survivors meeting, facilitating the participants wishing to discuss their bereavements in a group or private setting.
The Aisling Center will also be redistributing copies of the “Mind Yourself” booklet, a social services guide for Irish immigrants living in New York, along with a magnetic business card containing a list of vital emergency phone numbers, in various local business outlets over the coming weeks.
Professional counselors/social workers and psychotherapists are available at the Aisling Center, on both a walk-in and appointment basis if you, or somebody you care about, are finding it difficult to cope with life in New York and becoming despondent and depressed or dependent on drugs and alcohol to cope with every day life.
While depression, addiction and other mental health issues can be successfully treated with a combination of ongoing counseling, rehabilitation and medication, counseling can also be helpful when somebody is trying to come to terms with the loss of a loved one.
Just as an adult has difficulty dealing with bereavement, children may also benefit from counseling when trying to understand and come to terms with death.
In some cases, we will refer people to other professional counselors and psychotherapists depending on the issue which may be outside the scope of our remedy. The center can also provide information and put people in contact with various support groups such as AA, NA, bereavement groups, etc.
There is no charge for this service thanks to the funding we receive from the Irish government, City of Yonkers, New York State Office of Child and Family Services, and donations from private individuals and business owners.
To make a confidential appointment with a professional counselor, either here at the center or at an off site location, call (914)237-5121 or (914)237-7121. Evening and weekend appointments can also be arranged.
It is a major concern that contemplation of suicide would become a social fallout factor as a result of the current economic climate and increasing levels of unemployment, both here in New York and in Ireland.
While depression is usually a factor in suicide cases, worry about everyday problems such as work, relationships, finances, etc. can also become overwhelming and spiral out of control to the point that a person can no longer cope or see a way out of their problems.
We urge people to talk to someone, whether it is a family member, friend or a social worker or counselor, rather than bottling it up and allowing the problem to manifest.
Just as you would be there for a friend or family member in times of need, they are also there for you, so don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask them for help or advice.
As the saying goes, “a problem shared is a problem halved,” so talk to someone before the problem starts to appear much bigger than it really is.
If somebody is concerned about a friend’s behavior or recent change in mood, they should not keep this to themselves. They should really see it as a duty of care to inform a member of their family if something is not quite right.
We would also urge friends to look out for each other, particularly when enjoying a night out. It is a fact that alcohol and/or drugs tend to lower people’s inhibitions and this is when fatal or life threatening accidents occur.
People can have fun without putting their lives or the lives of their friends at risk. While it’s easy to lose track of your friends on a night out in a crowded pub or club, we would plead with people not to travel home alone at the end of the night, even if it is only a ten minute walk to their accommodation.

Orla Kelleher is executive director of the Aisling Irish Community Center located on McLean Avenue in Yonkers.

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