'She is our last thought at night and first thought in the morning'

Sinead Kelleher

Last Thursday, October 25 would have been Sasha Kidney's 16th birthday. Her family should have been organising a party for her to mark the special occasion.  Instead her parents, Sean and Tina, and her brother and sister, Dyllian and Chloe, held a poignant fireworks display and music session in honour of her memory, nine months after she died by suicide.

Every day since has been a battle for the Kenmare family, who are now launching a fundraiser for Pieta House through a local collection during the charity's 'Feel Good Week', to help others in their position. They also hope that telling their story might help.  The day the tragedy occurred is one her father Sean will never forget. "I just thought if I had gotten there sooner I would have been able to do more," said the heart-broken father.  "We thought there was hope, but there wasn't." Sasha passed away two days later in University Hospital Kerry.

For Sean and Tina, Sasha's death was a complete shock.  "When people get depressed, especially people who are bubbly and outgoing, they can't find a ladder. It is often the person you don't think that does this. It was an awful shock. It came out of the blue; we never saw it coming. The day before she was trying on clothes," they said. 

If they could turn back time they would tell Sasha that help is there. "We want to say help is a phone call anyway. Open up. Don't be afraid to ask for help," said Sean and Tina.  "The local community have seen our suffering, and I do hope that it has given some of the younger kids an insight. Suicide is not the answer. There are answers, but that is not the answer," added Sean.

For parents and those left behind like Sean and Tina, every single day is difficult. It does not get easier, but they do try to stay strong.  "It is difficult to find motivation, one step in front of the other, to keep going. You just have to stay strong," says Sean. "Some days you don't want to get out of bed. It is very tough moving forward; it is a slow process," added Tina.  "There is no end line. It is not like we are going to forget her. I am not going to say it gets easier as it is still early days. "She is our last thought at night and our first thought in the morning."

Both often find themselves telling people they are fine when they are not, but they said the community has been a huge support. It is also some comfort that Sasha's organs were donated. 

"There is some comfort in that. I would say to people that if you ever found yourself in our situation to consider it. It does help going forward, knowing that this awful tragedy has happened and that something good has come out of it."

Amid their grief Sean and Tina are also hoping to set up  a Youth Café for young people in Kenmare to offer them somewhere to chill out and talk. They also believe there is a gap in services.  There are no answers as to why Sasha died, but her parents believe cyber bullying may have been a factor.

Sean and Tina both feel that lack of services for young people need to be addressed and that legislation around cyber bullying would help.

"Teenagers nowadays are constantly under pressure because of smartphones. There is a  lot of talk about mental health and smartphones. "Their heads are in the phone. Bullying is 24/seven with a smart phone. We see it in the papers every day about issues with phones and apps," said Sean. They also feel current services are also not entirely suitable. "If a teenager has mental health issues and needs care they go to the adult psychiatric ward in UHK which is not suitable," they said.