The Tree of Hope Project
Suicide is a growing epidemic in this country; we've all heard this many times, it's a soundbite of it's own in the media, but still, despite this knowledge, the statistics show that it is a problem that is still on the rise. The stigma associated with suicidal ideation is enormous, admittance of a desire to end your life can result in being treatment as though you were carrying ebola. There is a gross lack of education on what to say or do if you suspect a loved one is suicidal; but unfortunately the individual is probably going to great lengths to hide their very real feelings.
The Central Statistics Office even struggles to compile accurate statistics on suicide deaths because of the stigma and lack of understanding surrounding suicide and the time in the lead up to it. For instance, many deaths, which are probably intentional suicides, are considered to be indeterminate in their root cause. Was the drowing of a young man or woman an intentional attempt to end their lives, or was it a tragic accident? Likewise, was that single car crash the result of falling asleep at the wheel or was it an acceleration down the only path that the victim saw as being available to them? Many suicides go down as 'undetermined intent' or 'accidental', as the intent of the person in the lead up to the catastrophe could not be determined. According to Samaritans.org, there were 459 deaths by suicicde in Ireland in 2014. That's not far off one a day. Primarily young men, and primarily by hanging. The Irish Times says that in 2015, it was 451. This may look as though the problem is (very slightly) declining, but statistics reveal that there has been a marked increase in the number of suicides in all provinces outside of Leinster. Roscommon, Galway and Waterford have had the highest rates, while the rates in Offally, Wexford and North Tipperary have also risen significantly.
We have the fourth highest rate of youth suicide in Europe.
Today, in the hospital grounds, I had the humbling pleasure of attending a Tree of Hope planting Ceremony. A few years ago, Dublin woman Noeleen Fulham, mother of two, tragically lost a number of friends to suicide. As a response to this, with a strong desire to offer hope to sufferers of depression and suicidal ideation and to offer condolence and a place of comfort for those left behind by victims of suicide, she began the Tree of Hope initiative. Earlier this year the project was endorsed by Críona Ní Dhálaigh, Lord Mayor of Dublin.
Today was very special- today was the planting of the 150th Tree of Hope. It was short and sweet, the process was not an overly drawn out affair, but it was so infused with emotion. Everyone wrapped up in the icy cold, standing around the hole in the ground and the tiny sapling that would grow and grow, long after we had all been and gone. A few words were spoken, mourning the tragedy of the lives that have been lost, but also atttesting to the survivors and the courage they exhibit by continuing to soldier on. After the tree was placed in the hole, a shovel was passed around the group for anyone who wanted to place some dirt in on top of the brave young tree's small roots. I took the shovel and it felt so heavy in my hands, I struggled to actually get soil up onto it for a moment, and as I saw the dirt falling into this hole along with the intentions of so many other people, I thought about the friends I had lost through suicide, the dirt falling and hitting the top of their coffins. Just like the small roots of this tree in their foot-deep hole, those six-foot holes held small things; lives extinguished too soon, lives that would never spread any further or grow any deeper. A priest named Fr. Pat then said a beautiful prayer that spoke about loss and pain and the strength that underlay weakness, the power that was available to us when we were down, the success it was when we picked ourselves back up again. Yellow ribbons were tied all over the baby tree, pansies, my favourite flowers, were planted all around the base of the tree. At the end, we released helium balloons up into the sky and watched them float away in the icy blue-grey Winter sky.
The Tree of Hope initiative isn't solely focused on victims and survivors of suicide but is about spreading awareness of mental illness and offering comfort and a community to all those suffering with any mental health issue. You are not alone. It hurts but you can do it. Just hold on.
If you would like to learn more about the Tree of Hope project or you would like to arrange planting a Tree of Hope in your community, you can go to https://www.facebook.com/TreesOfHope/
If you or someone you know is suffering, please reach out. There is help out there, and amazing help. I've included a list of links to various websites at the bottom of this post, if you haven't the strength to do aything else, just follow one of these links, just one, you don't have to do anything more, that can be a challenge for another day but just do this one thing that you can do now.
If anyone wants to ask me any questions or ask for resources for help, I will do all that I can. Thank you so much to the beautiful Tree of Life Crew for such a moving and humbling experience today, the work you guys are doing is amazing! And major congrats on Tree #150! Wow.
My Yogilateral Warriors, I love you so much.
What an end to my first week in treatment.