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A tree of hope brings light to grieving family

A Dublin mum whose husband tragically took his own life this year has planted a 'tree of hope' in his memory and in a bid to prevent similar deaths.

Alan Stanley (41), known as 'Stano' to his wide circle of friends, died in March this year.

His wife Ashling (39) turned the first sod on the tree, as friends and neighbours in Brookmount, Tallaght, offered their prayers and support.

"I got married to Alan in July 2004. We were 23 years together. He was 18 and I was 16 when we started going out," Ashling said.

"He was a steel fabricator. He ran his own business and had lads working for him," she said.

"We got married in Las Vegas. We had a big party when we came back," she recalled.

Fr Ben Moran - who said prayers for Alan at the tree-planting service - actually organised their Las Vegas wedding, which took place in a Catholic church there.

The couple were overjoyed at the birth of their daughter Lana, who turned eight two weeks ago.

However, tragedy was to strike the family on March 22 this year, with Alan's suicide.

"Alan had been suffering with depression," Ashling revealed.

The death of his sister Sandra (50) in September 2012, had hit the loving dad hard.

His death was "devastating for myself and Lana", Ashling said. "Lana knows what is going on. She misses her dad."

Alan, was very popular and sociable, and when he died his funeral was "huge".

There were fond memories of him yesterday when the tree was planted in view of their house.

Afterwards yellow balloons were released into the sky with messages of love for Alan. It will offers comfort to Ashling and others in the community.

"Some kids parked their bikes at Alan's van a few weeks ago and said a prayer. But now they have somewhere to go."

Family member Chris Collins said: "We are trying to tell people, it's okay not to be okay. If you are not okay, don't hide it. Go and talk to people."

Ashling added that: "Kids don't realise that when they take their life, that they are gone and it is permanent."

It is the 20th tree of hope that has been planted, mostly in the Tallaght area, so far.

It is an initiative thought up by a Tallaght mum-of-two Noeleen Fulham (55), from Old Bawn, after losing a number of friends to suicide.

She and her husband Niall are hoping that other communities will follow suit with their own trees to support people who have lost people through suicide or who are living with mental health issues. "Let's have a forest of trees," Noeleen said.

"Not everyone can lift a phone. It's also to help people who are depressed, so they will see something to give them hope," she said.