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Thursday 30 March 2023 Dublin: 14°C
Suicide via Shutterstock
# Cause of Death
Hearing of Robin Williams suicide 'pressed little buttons inside' families all over Ireland talks to a mother bereaved by suicide about the short death cert and Robin Williams.

TRISHA MOONEY IS adamant that her son died by suicide – not by hanging.

Yet, his current death cert says ‘Asphyxiation by hanging’ under the ‘Cause of Death’ box.

“Gareth did not die from hanging,” she told recently, following an announcement by Joan Burton that she will introduce new short-form certificates which can omit the cause of death.

“He died from a mental health illness. He took his own life by suicide, using the method of hanging.”

It is something the Wicklow mother has thought deeply about in the four years since Gareth died.

It is also something she has been confronted with on a regular basis as she see her granddaughter – Gareth’s daughter – grow up.

“I have lobbied and lobbied for this short death cert,” she explains. “The reason I wanted the wording changed was not to remove suicide or to change the statistics of suicide.

“I want to see suicide on the death cert. It’s not on my son’s right now… That word hanging is so insensitive.

“When my son’s daughter (who is now almost seven years old) has to get a passport, she has to produce his death cert. She needed to bring it in for various things in school. She’s can read now. She can see that word, hanging. And, really, I don’t think the school secretary needs to see that either.”

Gareth Mooney took his own life at his home in Wicklow on 23 July 2010. He had been to see a psychiatrist that day after a long battle with his mental health.

His daughter was just a toddler at the time.

“She knows he’s dead but is too young to comprehend the seriousness of suicide,” says Trisha today.

“We will tell her when the time is right. When she can understand. She has been told her daddy died and that he won’t be coming back. We say he had a pain in his head and the doctors couldn’t make him better.”

Trisha says that she will be able to get the short death cert in about six weeks time and it will be a happy day in her life.

She recalls his inquest, which took place Christmas week in 2010, with pain.

“It was on the 23 December in the heavy snow. There were 11 other families there… It was so cold and impersonal. First, we had to listen to our child’s measurements, irrelevant details such as the content of the stomach.

But then there was a detail that sparked a memory which Trisha describes as “our last funny moment”.

“There was high garlic content in the stomach,” she remembers. “We left the doctor and had lunch in a nearby hotel. He was looking for garlic sauce for his chips and he looked up and there was a woman in her early 50s there, but he decided to ask another girl. A tiny, foreign girl with a beautiful figure.

He asked her for that sauce from her feet to her head. I called him out on it and said he was disgraceful. That was our last funny memory – he was eyeing her up. That’s where the garlic contents came from.

With Burton’s announcement last week and the death of Robin Williams on Monday, the Mooney family were reminded that the illness and suicide touches people of “every age and gender and in every walk of life”. They were also reminded of their own loss.

It is like a little button being pressed inside you again. Every time you hear of a suicide, it’s that button. Like a recall button. I was very upset this week.

“It is the little things,” she adds. “He is not here to meet his niece – my daughter had a baby six weeks ago. There’s another grandson who is celebrating his birthday today. He’s five. He’s not here for his daughter starting school. He’s missing out on life. And we had no chance to say goodbye, to tell him we love him. Suicide has that knock-on effect. It is more horrific because there is also this tinge of guilt.

Burton clarified after the announcement of the short death certs that they will not impinge on statistics or, in her opinion, stifle debate about mental health.


  • Console 1800 247 247 – (suicide prevention, self-harm, bereavement)

  • Aware 1890 303 302 (depression anxiety)

  • Pieta House 01 601 0000 or email - (suicide, self-harm, bereavement)

  • Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)

  • Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)

Read: Remembering Robin Williams (1951 – 2014)

Opinion: Robin Williams’ death is a tragedy we should learn from – reach out to someone. Today.

Related: Joan Burton defends new death certs after ‘hidden suicide’ claims

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