Maria leads suicide fight
CASPER CHARITY aims to help reduce ireland's growing suicide Rates
THE founder of a leading international suicide prevention charity has come to Ireland to try and help reduce rates in this country.
Following the death of her only child by suicide in 2008, Maria Bradshaw, who lives outside Rathdrum, set up Community Action on Suicide Prevention Education and Research (CASPER) in a bid to learn more about the causes why people take their own lives.
'My only son Toran died from suicide at the age of 17, 15 days after he had been prescribed anti-depressants. His death was drug-induced and as a result was sudden and impulsive. It is accepted that in about four per cent of cases this medication will lead to intensely suicidal thoughts.
'In the US, it carries a warning to this effect but in New Zealand, where I am from, and on this side of the world there is no such warning so it comes as a shock to people that this can happen,' Maria explains.
'After Toran's death I was very focussed on getting information out there and I told my story through the media but I felt like as his mother I got some pats on the head and some sympathy but the issue needed broader focus.'
With this in mind, Maria founded CASPER, an organisation which offers community-based information and education workshops about suicide and also provides a peer mentoring programme as a way of supporting families who have been bereaved by suicide.
'In New Zealand, CASPER has been credited with a 20 per cent drop in youth suicide rates. Ireland has similar rates as New Zealand and, after I became good friends with Leonie Fennell from Wicklow, I wanted to see if I could help.'
Maria's affinity with Ireland goes deeper than this however as she discovered that she has Irish ancestry and before his death, she promised Toran that they would take a trip here together.
Before his death Toran had been making lots of plans, for travel and study and had spoken with friends just 30 minutes before he died, which makes it all the more likely that his suicide was directly linked to the medication he was taking.
'At CASPER we take a really different approach. We don't believe that people kill themselves because they are mentally ill but rather because they feel marginalised, isolated and that there is no hope to change things. Our solutions are very different.
'We work with a network od the world's top researchers.
'Also research shows that peer support is the most highly valued form of support that bereaved families can receive.'
CASPER has already hosted a number of successful community based events in recent months and more are planned to take place around County Wicklow in the coming months.
For further information about CASPER visit www.casper.ie or call (089) 2086744.