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'Salema's death will not be in vain,' vows heartbroken mum


SUPPORT GROUP: Salema Megsi’s mother Joanne Regan with a cherished photo of her daughter.

SUPPORT GROUP: Salema Megsi’s mother Joanne Regan with a cherished photo of her daughter.

SUPPORT GROUP: Salema Megsi’s mother Joanne Regan with a cherished photo of her daughter.

Salema Megsi had the world at her feet. Beautiful and academically gifted, she was combining a fledgling career as a model with a new qualification as a health and fitness instructor.

But on July 7 last year, to the utter shock and bewilderment of family and friends, Salema took her own life.

Now her heartbroken mother is setting up a support group to help families and friends who have lost loved ones to suicide.

Joanne Regan, who lives in Swords, Co Dublin and her children are determined that Salema's death, at the age of just 23, will not be in vain.

"After we lost Salema, we went to counselling but all we kept hearing was 'it's really terrible what's happened,' and 'I can only imagine what you are going through,' but that's all people were saying," said Joanne.

"There's little real help for the likes of us trying to cope with the loss of a loved one through suicide," she said. "I kept saying to myself, 'I'm her mother, I should have done more to protect her'."

She said she and Salema's sisters, Melissa (31), Hannah (27) and Najat (20), will start up a support group called Salema's Place.

Salema's Place will enable people to come to terms with the suicide of a loved one by talking to people who have undergone the same tragic experience.

Salema, who had only just qualified as a health and fitness instructor, had suffered anxiety and panic attacks but there were few other signs that she would take her own life.

When she took her own life she left her mother a note.

"The note was the last thing she gave me," said a heartbroken Joanne, recalling the last time she saw her "beautiful, smiling, long dark-haired" daughter alive.

She said she and Salema talked for two hours that night as they were so close.

"Salema came to be that night and said 'Mam, the only time I feel happy is when I am at home.

"She said to me, 'Mam if anything ever happens to me I want you to have everything I own. I told her 'nothing's going to happen to you, sure you are only 23.' Little did I know," recalled Joanne.

"I know now that when people start giving away their stuff, it's a sign."

Later Salema left the room saying she was going to watch the TV soap opera Hollyoaks.

"She said 'I love you mam'," Joanne remembered.

It was the last time her mother saw Salema alive.

Later, following an intense search of the area by gardai, Salema's body was found in a forest near her home.

"All I remember is throwing myself off the sofa on to the ground and pulling my hair out, screaming 'Please God, no, don't do this to me' is all I kept saying. I just thought I was going to die."

The days and weeks ­following Salema's death were a "living nightmare" according to Joanne and her family.

"We know now it's ­nothing I have done wrong, it's nothing our family has done wrong," said Joanne.

Joanne and her children Melissa, Hannah, Najat, Ruth (13) and Harry (11) described the loss of Salema like "a tsunami washing over us".

"Salema was a fun-loving, light-hearted girl full of love," Joanne said.

"We knew she suffered panic attacks and anxiety and brought her to healers and doctors, but nothing helped. She was just given a tablet which did not get rid of the underlying problem," she said.

Salema's sister, Melissa, believes there isn't enough help out there for people who suffer from depression, anxiety and panic attacks.

Joanne, her children and Salema's dad, Abdul, feel talking to people who have gone through similar circumstances aids the healing process.

"Sometimes people in the support group or counsellors don't know exactly what we are going through as yes, they have lost family members through illnesses such as cancer but with a loss through suicide it is different as there are so many questions needing answers."

Salema's Place support group will be launched on Tuesday at Rivervalley Community Centre, Swords from 8pm to 9pm where those touched by suicide can come together.

Sunday Independent