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Donal Walsh

Brave Donal Walsh’s death should be a message to Ireland that suicide is never the answer

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Donal Walsh

An ambulance was called and he was taken straight to hospital. He was immediately pumped of all the medication in his system, and doctors said he would survive because his brother had gotten to him on time. He was lucky to be alive, they said. 

I was relieved and devastated at the same time. I was the only person to receive a text from him that night.  I thank God so many times that I chose to look at my phone, because if I waited the outcome could very well have been different.  

My friend was one of the lucky ones.  

Two days before John and I, and our two babies, were due to say goodbye to New York last year (May 20) I realized I had several missed calls from friends in Ireland. I thought they were getting excited to see me. 

That wasn’t the case unfortunately. When I finally returned one of the calls I was told to sit down. 

A former boyfriend of one of my close friends and a guy I had met on a few occasions had taken his own life. He shot himself. He was a detective and used his own gun. 

He also apparently battled with the depression demon and something sparked him off that night. He lost all his train of thought and pulled a gun on himself, successfully ending his all-too young life. 

When I was 15 a young fella of 16 I grew up with also shot himself in a murder suicide situation. I heard the shots from my bedroom window that night and wondered what the loud popping sounds were. I had never heard a gunshot before.  

This particular 16-year-old had a problem with drugs and went a little crazy on them. His father had a gun for hunting, and one particular Saturday night in April of that year (mid-nineties) jealousy overcame him and he shot a guy from Cork for kissing his girlfriend. 

Realizing his mistake pretty much straight away, he turned the gun on himself and shot himself in the head. His family was devastated, and still are to this day. 

And the stories go on and on. Like all of us I know many more people who have taken their lives, or attempted to take their own lives and thankfully didn’t succeed.   

The reason I’m writing this article today is because last week in Tralee, Co. Kerry (my birth town) a beautiful 16-year-old boy called Donal Walsh died all too young from cancer. 

Donal, who had become a celebrity in Ireland in the few months leading to his death, went on national television pleading with young people not to take their own lives. He wrote about it in newspapers, spoke to schools about it and constantly posted to social media sites. 

He knew he was terminal and his time on this earth was very limited. He wanted to live a long life. He wanted to play professional rugby, have a relationship, go to college, make all the mistakes young people make. 

He wanted life, and it angered him to the core to see so many young people, people his own age, ending their lives so abruptly. 

He begged them to seek help when they felt depressed, or were bullied or something horrible was happening to them. He repeated over and over again that suicide wasn’t the answer. 

His family buried Donal last Wednesday. Thousands of people from all over Ireland attended his funeral. His message will not be forgotten. 

Donal did save many lives before his death. He received several letters, emails and social media messages telling him so. Young kids wrote to him saying they wanted to take their lives, but after seeing him on the television they changed their minds. They felt selfish. 

Donal died saving others. 

My friend was also saved. He battled with depression (and guilt) for a few weeks after his suicide attempt. He then sought out a wonderful counselor who he claims put him back on the road to recovery. 

He didn’t go back on anti-depressants. Instead he took up cycling (a natural anti-depressant). He will tell you to this day that cycling has been his life saver. 

He cycles for leisure, for exercise and now has recently begun competing in races throughout Ireland. He loves cycling but he loves his life more. He is ever so grateful that he wasn’t successful in ending it all that dark January evening in 2009. 

"It kills me to see young people committing suicide.  I’m here fighting for my life for the third time, I’ve no say in anything.  They think they have a problem and this might be a solution, that does make me angry and I’m not going to lie about it.

“Twenty years ago (suicide) didn’t exist in society so why should it be an issue today.  If I’m meant to be a symbol for people to appreciate life then I’ll be happy to die if that’s what I’m dying for.”

--Donal Walsh (The Saturday Night Show, RTE, April 7, 2013)

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