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Thursday 17 August 2017

Suicide isn't the answer, says mother as Shannon laid to rest

Greg Harkin

THE mother of two teenage girls who took their own lives has appealed to vulnerable young people to seek help, telling them: "Suicide is not the answer."

Brave Lorraine Gallagher spoke out a day after laying her 15-year-old daughter Shannon to rest alongside her sister Erin, (13). Both took their own lives, 45 days apart.

"I am just numb and I don't know what to think or say at this time. I know nothing can bring my girls back," she said.

"But I did see the looks on the faces of Shannon and Erin's friends and they are going through so much, too.

"I want them to know that suicide is not the answer to whatever hurt and pain they are going through.

"There is another way and there are people there to listen. Whatever it is, we can sort it out," she pleaded.

The 36-year-old said she would try to be strong for the sake of her four-year-old son Sean James.

"Sean James was the centre of Erin and Shannon's lives. They lived for him," said Ms Gallagher.

"I know they are looking down now and protecting us. I know they are willing me to be strong so he can have the best life possible now," she added.

There were heartbreaking scenes at the funeral for Shannon in the Church of Mary Immaculate in Stranorlar, Co Donegal, on Saturday.

The teenager's white coffin was carried into the church by fellow members of the Twin Towns Boxing Club.

Hundreds of mourners heard curate Father John Joe Duffy say she had given up rugby to spend more time boxing and had won Ulster titles for the club.

A picture of Shannon in the boxing ring was placed on top of her coffin as the curate told of a sports-mad teenager who also had a huge love of Gaelic games, soccer, Irish dancing and the Irish language, recently excelling in an Irish exam at her school Finn Valley College.

"Society has failed two children, two sisters within two months and that is a most damning indictment for any society evidenced by the second white coffin that is before this altar within two short months, 45 days ago to be exact," Fr Duffy said.

Consequences

"My heart is devastated, my heart is shattered at how poorly we understand the issues concerning youth mental health and mental health issues in the general population in Ireland. And the terrible consequences we see occurring and re-occurring on a regular basis throughout the country."

The priest called for a review of how mental health issues were dealt with here.

"The systems and methodologies in place and used by the HSE and other agencies and professionals dealing with these cases simply does not work," he said.

"We are failing to protect the most fragile and most vulnerable children in our society. We are failing to bring in the children, young people and most vulnerable adults on the margins of our society to the safety of the centre where they ought to find support, comfort, and safety."

He called for policies dealing with vulnerable young people to be "radically improved".

Friends and family wept as Shannon's coffin was taken from the church.

Pink balloons were released as the cortege left, as they had seven weeks ago for Erin's funeral.

Shannon was laid to rest alongside Erin in Castlefin cemetery.

Irish Independent

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