Alice is a communications officer and in 2020 she lost one of her closest friends to suicide. Mary O’Gara, who was training to become a nurse, took her own life at the age of 27.
When asked about Mary, Alice said, “Mary was the life and soul of the party. She had a smile that lit up the room and everyone fell in love with her as soon as they met her. We’d been really close friends since high school and had the same friendship group. All my favourite memories from being younger had Mary in them, we’ve been on girls’ holidays, festivals, hen parties, weddings, weekends away. The quiet takeaway nights were also the best, she gave such good advice if you ever had a problem and always put other people before herself.”
1 in 4 people will suffer from a form of mental illness in their lifetime, that’s a quarter of the population. It could happen to anyone at any time. Unfortunately, Mary suffered with depression. Alice told us, “I knew Mary had her struggles, but it was a complete shock when we found out she was gone. It’s not something that you ever expect.”
“Since her death, it’s been really difficult. It’s so hard when all the girls are together and there is somebody missing. And when big things happen and she’s not there to celebrate. We’re all turning 30 this year and she was always the oldest with a September birthday, so I think this year will be really hard. But we talk about her all the time and will never forget her.”
World Mental Health Day is recognised every year in the hope that focusing attention on the issue, reduces stigma and raises awareness. Alice believes it’s essential to raise awareness of mental health and suicide and people shouldn’t feel it’s a taboo subject.
She said, “It’s really important that we’re not afraid to speak about mental health and suicide and that we break the stigma around it. You never know what people are going through behind closed doors so it’s really important to look beyond the smile, always be kind and look out for the signs with your loved ones, even the subtle ones. Zero Suicide Alliance have a free 20 minute training session that gives information on the signs to look out for, how to have a conversation with someone you’re worried about and the best places to signpost them to.”
In the two years that have followed since Mary’s death, her parents and friends have set up a foundation in her name to raise awareness around mental health and suicide prevention for young people. The foundation is now a registered charity and the money raised is funding suicide prevention training to staff at local high schools so that young people have someone to turn to if they’re in crisis, who will know how to help and support them.
She told us, “Mary’s family and our other friends have been absolutely fantastic. I’m literally in awe of their utter strength and determination. I’m off work on maternity leave at the moment so when I’m not changing nappies and getting baby snuggles, I’ve been supporting the charity as much as I can by offering my communications skills and knowledge. We’ve organised some big fundraising events and had the help of some fantastic people, so far raising over £25,000!”