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'Paul wanted to talk. But there was nobody to talk to'

Patricia Turner lost her son to suicide in 2009.

Patricia Turner

THIS YEAR’S DARKNESS Into Light walk takes place on Saturday May 6th in aid of Pieta House, supported by Electric Ireland. Participants in more than 150 locations, on four continents, will walk the 5km route to raise funds and awareness.

All throughout this week, people around Ireland are sharing their own Darkness Into Light journeys. Here, Patricia Turner, from Tralee in Co Kerry, tells her story.

My son Paul died by suicide on March 31st, 2009. He was 29 years of age.

Paul first went into hospital in September 2008 after suffering a breakdown. His relationship of eight years had ended, and it hit him especially badly because there were two kids involved, his ex-girlfriend’s children who he had reared as his own.

Over the next few months, the doctors put him on different kinds of tablets and were changing the dosage but nothing was working. He was getting worse, not better. In January 2009, a family friend was killed in a car crash and after that Paul just went to pieces.

Afraid to interact

I had him back at home with me at that stage, and he just slowly began to withdraw more and more. He wouldn’t go outside, it was like he was afraid to interact with people. He lost interest in everything: friends, work, all of that.

Paul could talk for Ireland, he’d lecture you about anything. The problem wasn’t that he didn’t want to talk, it was that there was nobody to talk to. At that time, Pieta House didn’t exist near our home town, and we were relying on doctors and psychiatrist appointments. There was no-one for him to talk to and I know that’s all he wanted. Paul was an artist, he was very deep, and that was great in some ways but it was a bad thing in other ways.

Paul Turner Source: Patricia Turner

Paul had this belief that he was hurting everybody, and that his life was a joke. My husband died from a heart attack 19 years ago, and Paul would say to me over and over that if his dad could see him, he’d be ashamed. I tried to reassure him that we’d get through things, and that his dad would be nothing but proud of him, but nothing was getting through. He couldn’t see any bright spots.

A conversation that stands out for me is one I had with Paul on March 30th, 2009, the day before he died. A friend of his had taken his own life quite recently, and I said to Paul, ‘I don’t know what I’d do if anything ever happened to you.’ All he said was, ‘I’d never do that to you. I love you too much.’ And the very next day I found him on the stairs.

Looking back

There were lots of things I said afterwards, lots of things I thought about, maybe if I’d done something differently on the day it happened, I could have changed things. I went out that day with my granddaughter, and I asked Paul to come with me. He said no, he’d stay at home. My youngest son John was in bed at the time and Paul even came into his room for a cigarette, they had a laugh about John still being in bed in the middle of the day.

By the time I got back to the house, Paul had taken his own life. I remember thinking if I’d come home sooner, it might have been different. I felt I had let him down, but I know I didn’t. The system let him down.

I believe that if Paul had access to a service like Pieta House, things could have been different, and that’s why I think it’s so important to raise awareness now.

Bad patch

One of my other sons was going through a bad patch a couple of years back. He was the closest in age to Paul and never really dealt properly with his anger over what happened. Thankfully at that stage Pieta House was there for him, and within two sessions with the staff there I could see a difference. I can tell you, it saved him. Without it, I would have been burying a second son.

My daughter Stephanie has been fundraising for Pieta House for a few years now, and she was instrumental in bringing the Darkness Into Light walk to Tralee for the first time last year. We had over 3,000 people. My partner of five years, who also lost two sons to suicide, is on the committee too. The whole town gets involved.

Too many deaths

On May 6th, the day of the Darkness Into Light walk, I’ll be up all day and night decorating, setting things up and getting people registered. Even something like making tea and coffee is a monumental task when it’s for a few thousand people.

We’re losing too many people to suicide in this country, and the work that Pieta House does is fantastic. All Paul wanted was someone to talk to, and that’s the kind of service Pieta House offers.

Join the thousands walking from Darkness Into Light on May 6th to raise funds and awareness for Pieta House. You’ll find more information online here and here.

Helplines:

  • Pieta House 1800 247 247 or email mary@pieta.ie – (suicide, self-harm)
  • Samaritans 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org
  • Aware 1800 80 48 48 (depression, anxiety)
  • Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)
  • Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)

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About the author:

Patricia Turner

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