I want you to imagine a jumbo jet filled with men, women and children crashing into the Irish coast just as it was about to land in Dublin.
Can you imagine the desolation, the trauma and the outcry?
We would forever mourn the loss of approximately 500 lives.
Each year we would remember these loved ones by acknowledging the anniversary, having a special ceremony and maybe even the president of our country lead the people of Ireland in what would become an annual remembrance, a dignified reminder of our terrible grief.
But what if that tragedy was to happen every year?
What if every year, and without explanation, 500 men, women and children died suddenly?
They do - but not because of an air crash, but because of suicide.
Tomorrow, Saturday, the 10th of September, marks World Suicide Awareness Day.
It’s a day when millions of people around the world will remember with great sadness the loss of a loved one through suicide.
America is no different from the rest of the world.
Every week, hundreds of people take their lives.
And yet there will be no presidential, dignified ceremony mourning the loss of these necessary lives, no national recognition of a tragedy that is relentless year after year, no national outcry demanding services that will help people in their time of need - services that could change a desperate thought before it becomes an action that has terrifying consequences.
But what if there was something?
What if there was a solution to this terrible scourge on our society?
What if the answer was now there is somewhere to go?
September also recognizes the first anniversary of New York’s Pieta House, a life-saving service that originated a decade ago in Ireland.
This organization provides professional, confidential support for people who are in any sort of crisis and is completely free of charge.
Pieta House has its New York base in the New York Irish Center in Long Island City, Queens.
I originally believed that this service would serve the Irish in New York.
But the vision has expanded to helping the Irish wherever they are in the world.
The Pieta House model, wonderful and compassionate that it is, should be available to every society that has a problem with suicide.
Every nationality should benefit from this loving, gentle approach to suicidal distress, and any type of crisis experienced by people of all ages.
Along with the Pieta House team, which brought what is an amazing service to New York, we want to get people all across America talking, and give those in need the courage to seek help.
Pieta House will work to remove the stigma of emotional crisis and offer its services to thousands of people who will witness compassion, kindness and Irish hospitality as only the Irish know how.
Anyone suffering from any distress, or who knows someone who needs our support and confidential help, can contact us at (718)482-0001. Callers do not need health insurance, a doctor’s note, or any referral.
Joan Freeman, a member of the Irish Senate, is the founder, president and CEO of Dublin-based Pieta House. More at www.pietahouse.org