Monday 18 June 2018

'All I want is to be her hero' - mum whose daughter (13) died by suicide is determined to help others

Shannon Kelleher died by suicide in January 2012, aged just 13. Now her mum hopes to help other children and teenagers learn coping skills to help them look after their mental health.

Sandra Kelleher, holding a photo of her late daughter Shannon. Sandra is pictured beside the Tree of Hope, in Pimlico Green, The Liberties, Dublin.
Sandra Kelleher, holding a photo of her late daughter Shannon. Sandra is pictured beside the Tree of Hope, in Pimlico Green, The Liberties, Dublin.
Memorial plaque for Shannon Kelleher at the Tree of Hope, in Pimlico Green, The Liberties, Dublin.
Sandra Kelleher, right, holding a photo of her late daughter Shannon, with her sister Lisa Kelleher holding 'The Gift of Hope' - a self-help box which contains items to help with focusing on Positive Mental Health and taking time out for yourself. Dublin.
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

The mum of a teenage girl who died by suicide has said there were no signs which signalled something was wrong.

Shannon Kelleher was just 13 when she died by suicide in 2012 and five years on from her unexpected death her mum, Sandra, is hoping to establish a mental health charity devoted to teens and children.

Her death stunned her family, leaving them reeling.

"I didn't notice any signs, she never mentioned suicide, it's only in your grief when you look back you say 'was that a little sign?'

"She was a joker, she was always making people laugh, you'd never think she was depressed," Sandra told Independent.ie.

"We were all just blown away, thinking what happened? It was a complete shock."

Her youngest daughter (Sandra has another daughter Nadine who is 23) spoke about her future her mum said.

"She wanted to be an artist and an actress. She talked about her future," she said.

"She adored kids. Her father had a son with another partner and she adored her little brother. She would come back from Tallaght and would never stop talking about him."

 

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Memorial plaque for Shannon Kelleher at the Tree of Hope, in Pimlico Green, The Liberties, Dublin.

Shannon did not appear withdrawn and wouldn't lock herself away in her room like some teenagers, her mother said.

With time however, Sandra has learned not to torture herself wondering if there are signs she may have missed. Instead she has opted to educate herself on suicide in young people.

"I had never heard of someone so young taking their own life and I began researching and I couldn't believe the amount of young suicides," she said.

Sandra and her sister Lisa have undertaken a number of courses including SafeTalk, to help them in their new pursuit, Shannon's Hopeline. The pair want to provide support in the prevention of suicide and self-harm in adolescents, through providing counselling and other supports.

While the organisation is registered as a limited company now the sisters are in the process of registering as a charity.

In addition Sandra is also writing a book which she hopes will help other people cope with their own grief. It is a detailed look at what happened to her family.

"People might think it's too harsh, or too detailed but I think that's what people need," she said.

Helping other children brings her "great joy", Sandra said and ideally she would like to roll out a centre which could provide free counselling for children aged 10-18 years and also provide aftercare.

Shannon's Hopeline has already run some courses locally with children and young people and are working on developing a confidence building programme which they would love to bring into schools.

"Shannon wrote me a lovely letter in her Christmas exams, where she mentions that I am her hero and that's all I want - to be her hero," Sandra said.

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Sandra Kelleher, right, holding a photo of her late daughter Shannon, with her sister Lisa Kelleher holding 'The Gift of Hope' - a self-help box which contains items to help with focusing on Positive Mental Health and taking time out for yourself. Dublin.

Sandra has also developed a care pack with a number of items she thinks could be helpful for people who are struggling and for children who complete a course with Shannon's Hopeline.

"I went through a horrible time with my grief and all of the items in the care pack are things that helped me get through it," she said. 

"I pushed a lot of people away and I just wanted to be on my own."

Sandra also believes we need a new approach to dealing with issues of mental health and suicide among children.

"There seems to be a myth that if you are talking to kids about suicide you are putting the idea in their head," she said.

"If I had seen it [information about suicide among children or young people] in the paper or on the TV about how bad our suicide rate was, I would have sat my girls down and said 'what do you think about that?'

"I think it's really important that we talk to children."

The family want a premises where they can have two to three trained counsellors on site and where people can drop in to learn about the service but say that they have not been able to get any assistance from Dublin City Council (DCC) in securing a site.

However, DCC has said they will continue trying to help the organisation.

"Increasing incidents of suicide in Dublin 8, and particularly among young people are tragedies within families and within communities. They are lives of immense potential lost to friends, family and society," a spokeswoman said.

"Any service that offers support and unconditional understanding to individuals feeling lost or disconnected is worthy of support and assistance. Shannon’s Hopeline is one such service.

"DCC leases, on peppercorn rent, buildings to a wide range of community owned and run services.  Unfortunately at present we do not have appropriate and free buildings to accommodate Shannon’s Hopeline. We did recommend that they engage in dialogue with other community organisations  who have premises leased from us.  Unfortunately these organisations have presently no room to accommodate the needs of Shannon’s Hopeline.

"We will continue to seek to identify appropriate premises for Shannons Hopeline and we will survey the organisations currently leasing our buildings to identify possibilities that might allow for accommodation for Shannon’s Hopeline in future.”

 

  • If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article you can contact Pieta House on 1800 247 247 or the Samaritans on 116 123 (ROI).
  • Teenline is available for teens aged between 13-19-years-old and is open between 8-11pm 7 days a week1800833634

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