'I had made the decision to die' - Caitriona (31) thanks best friend who saved her from suicide
A young woman who was once suicidal said she "would not be alive" if it wasn't for her best friend, who made the difficult decision to seek professional help against her wishes.
Caitriona McMahon (31) said she was furious when her close friend Kayla Cooley (25) broke her confidence and called her counsellor after Caitriona told her she was having suicidal thoughts.
Caitriona, from Askeaton in Limerick, had been struggling to cope on her own with depression and anxiety and said that while she was furious that Kayla sought the help of her GP, she will be forever grateful for her intervention.
"I had been feeling quite low for a while, but I hadn't told anyone about it," said Caitriona, speaking to Independent.ie.
"It got really bad a few years ago, I was really stressed at work and I just felt like it was all on top of me. I knew I was getting worse and I was trying to cope with my anxiety as well. I was diagnosed with depression and although I had told Kayla, I felt like I was trying to cope with it as best I could on my own.
"It got to a point where I had made the decision to die but I needed to make a plan," she said.
Caitriona's friend, Kayla, had noticed an upsetting change in her friend in the months before she told her how she was feeling. The UCC student said she was worried that Caitriona would not speak to her again after she forced her to seek the help of her counsellor and GP but admitted her priority was to keep her friend alive.
Speaking of her friend, Kayla, from Nenagh, said: "I had known Caitriona about four years when I noticed a big change in her that frightened me. She had always been quite an emotional person but had gone from having ups and downs to showing no emotional at all. No anger, no sadness, nothing.
"It was petrifying to see the change in her.
"I was over visiting her one night and she said something really desolate, I can't remember exactly what, but I asked if if she was talking about suicide and she said 'Yes'.
"It was one of the scariest moments of my life, I just didn't know what to do."
Kayla made the decision to stay the night with her friend and "did not leave her side" until she could get in touch with Caitriona's counsellor the next morning. She recommended Kayla accompany Caitriona to her GP as soon as possible.
After the appointment, Caitriona was furious with her friend for what she felt like was a betrayal of her trust but Kayla said she felt relieved to have sought the help of mental health professionals.
"By nature, I'm a fixer and it scared me that I knew I couldn't fix this," said Kayla.
"When she came out she was so, so angry for me. Uncharacteristically angry. In her eyes, I had betrayed her trust but I knew I couldn't tackle this on my own. So I suppose in that way it went uphill and downhill at the same time. Caitriona was furious with me, but at that moment I didn't care if she never spoke to me again, at least she'd be alive.
"We never stopped speaking all together, but she was angry at me for a very long time."
Caitriona said she remembers how furious she was with her friend, who never stopped supporting her through the whole process, even after harsh words were said.
"Telling my GP, saying 'I'm feeling suicidal', I almost choked on the words.
"When I came out of his office, I was just so angry with Kayla. In my head, she had ruined my plan.
"I was so angry for a long time, I'd be telling her to just leave me alone, but she'd keep coming back.
"Now, I know that she felt like she couldn't do it alone but the anger I felt, it took so long to go away," said Caitriona.
After meeting with her GP, Caitriona was placed on a treatment plan which involved intensive and regular counselling sessions and medication, and was encouraged by her friend to confide in her family for the first time.
"Kayla said she wasn't going to tell my family but she encouraged me to do it and I eventually told my brother. He let my parents know and they were all so relieved because they had known something was going on with me for a while, but didn't know what.
"My GP referred me to the day hospital where I saw a psychiatric doctor. I began to check in with them during appointments every second day.
"On my own, I couldn't see anyway out other than dying.
"It was a really slow process but counselling really helped me, and medication began to make me feel a little better. I could see tomorrow clearly, and after a while, I could see next week. Before I couldn't at all," she said.
After a few months, Caitriona began to recognise that Kayla had saved her life by making the decision to seek professional help and the pair have since set up an organisation to help those coping with mental health problems, the Community Crisis Response Team.
Caitriona said: "I know I wouldn't be alive without Kayla.
"We've both done Assist training and set up a service to help people who are coping with mental health problems and feeling suicidal. I feel like I'm on the good side of it now and know I'm in a position to help people.
"When Kayla needed help that night, there wasn't any services open to her and I guess that's what we're aiming to do with this. We set up a Facebook page, and got an old mobile phone and just said we are here to help. We linked up with other members of our community who are Assist-trained and we opened ourselves up. We cover the West Limerick area and now we are going national which is fantastic. Seven nights a week, you can call us and we're there to have a chat or call out to you. We've had such an overwhelming response to it," she said.
Kayla offered advice to friends and family members who may fear that their loved one is struggling and said she has never regretted her decision to seek help for Caitriona.
"If you have a friend who is struggling or if they tell you they are having suicidal thoughts, you just have to realise that you need to ask for help.
"You care about that person so much, but you can't help them on your own, that's what professionals are there for and trained to do.
"I also think you should prepare yourself for the repercussions, your friend might be angry with you for a time and you have to realise that that is reasonable. They might feel like you've betrayed them but you have to remember you are doing it because you care about them," said Kayla.
If you have been affected by the issues raised in this article please contact the Samaritans on 116123 for support or visit the website on www.samaritans.org.
For information and support visit Caitriona and Kayla's Community Crisis Response Team's website ccrtireland.ie