'Seek help' - man's plea a year on from suicide of his sister
A Dublin man whose sister took her own life one year ago has penned a moving and personal tribute to her, and urged anyone with mental health difficulties to seek help.
On May 7 last year, Sarah Branagan, from Skerries, died.
She had made a previous attempt on her own life seven years earlier, around the time of her mock Leaving Certificate, but had since sought help and appeared to be in good spirits.
On his Facebook page, Sarah's brother, David, told of how he was in Melbourne, Australia, when he checked his phone on May 8 to see if there was any news from home.
The headline of the first news story told him of an incident that had happened in his hometown.
"'Oh, no...' I recall thinking to myself '...sounds like a suicide, I hope it's not someone I know'," David wrote.
However, later that morning, David's girlfriend phoned his workplace and told him to come home. He jumped into a taxi wondering what was wrong.
Sarah did cross his mind, after all, she had made an attempt on her life before. He became anxious.
"I vividly remember getting out of the car, walking up to our apartment and seeing my girlfriend's distressed face. 'Is it Sarah?'," David wrote.
"'You need to call your dad,' she said. I was handed the phone and could hear my dad's voice. 'David...it's Sarah, she's done it this time.'
"A year on, the shock of her death is still difficult to comprehend. Sarah Jane Branagan, or SJB, as she is known to her friends, had a healthy diet and was physically fit; she had close friends and family and had an exciting social life.
"She took part in a variety of hobbies and won medals across a range of sports. She travelled abroad to North America and Asia, and had booked her next summer holiday to Europe.
"Externally, Sarah appeared to have it all. Internally it proved a different story.
"In 2011, at the age of 18, on the eve of her mock exams, Sarah made that first attempt and thankfully failed.
"She was brought to the hospital, saw some of the country's top counsellors, and she appeared to recover.
"Then, on a sunny Sunday evening last May, three days after her 25th birthday, the darkness took over until Sarah could no longer see past it, and made a choice to end the pain.
"Whether we blame exam pressures, unrealistic expectations she put upon herself, or something else, the common denominator is mental ill-health."
He then appealed for anyone with difficulties, or anyone with a family member in difficulty, to seek help. "With Sarah's anniversary upon us, I'd like to use it as an opportunity to raise awareness of suicide, the suicide prevention services available, to raise money to support these services, and to encourage people to look after themselves and their loved ones," added David.
The family is supporting three charities involved in suicide awareness - Cycle Against Suicide, Pieta House and Skerries Youth Support Services.
To support, click on https://www.gofundme.com/sjb-1-year-anniversary.