Friday 26 August 2016

Helen Moorhouse: We need to teach our young people that there is always help, there is always hope

Published 13/12/2012 | 13:09

THERE are simply no words. How do you begin to comprehend how Lorraine Gallagher's arms must ache to hold her girls today, two-thirds of her family gone because her beautiful daughters have tragically taken their own lives.

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Being a teenager nowadays must be more of an uncertain no-man's-land than any of us can imagine. They carry adult-sized burdens on child-sized backs. They aren't fully wired to deal with the issues that bombard them day in and day out – school, exams, jobs, relationships, social standing, self-esteem. But still we expect them to cope – aren't schooldays the best of your life? And the young folk today have never had it so good, of course.

And as if the everyday stuff weren't hell enough, then how do they stay strong under the added burden of unexpected tragedy? Like Shannon Gallagher's, who saw no other way to deal with the unbearable grief of her sister Erin's suicide than to imitate her.

So what it is that we tell people when they are faced with seemingly insurmountable difficulty? To be brave, of course. To stay strong. That things will get better with time. To stick it out. That there's a whole future ahead.

More burden. Added load on already exhausted arms, the terrifying prospect of 'the future' - of infinite time spent feeling like they are in a never-ending hell. Do we expect too much when we urge them to stay strong?

They don't have to, of course. They can be weak. There is nothing wrong with being frightened and worried and upset and overburdened. It is OK to break into a million pieces. Because there is always help, whatever its source. And that people can be rebuilt, time and time again if needs be.

How do we get the message through to our teenagers that once they take their own lives that they are truly and completely gone? And that people love them and will long for them to come back with a pain far, far greater than that which they think they can't deal with. That no matter how broken they think they are that they are essential to someone or something. That their worries will end. That, breath by breath, they grow closer to the bad times passing. It is slow. It is painful. But it is not permanent. Like death is. Or like the love of those that they would leave behind.

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