BY AISLING MEATH
THE 13th of December, 2013 is a date that is forever etched in the mind of Grace Santry from Clonakilty – it was the day that she lost her beloved brother Jonathan to suicide.
Grace remembers: ‘Jonathan was a happy go lucky guy, so it was a complete shock to myself and my family and to everyone that knew him that he took his own life.’
Jonathan was 43 years old, and his mother Mary and siblings Wayne, Hazel, Gina and Grace will never fill the gap left in their hearts as a result of his passing. His father Willie who had been ill with Parkinson’s also passed away not too long after Jonathan’s death.
‘Daddy never got over the shock of losing him,’ said Grace.
Despite the hard time that Grace and her family experienced as a result of their loss of Jonathan and Willie, they have proven their resilience by reaching out to others and they are determined to break the stigma that still exists around the subject of suicide.
With this in mind Grace is organising a two-day charity horse show on Saturday and Sunday, 5th and 6th of January at Tullineaskey Equestrian Centre, near The Pike, in memory of Jonathan.
All proceeds raised are going directly towards Lisheens House, centre for the prevention of suicide and self harm; a charity located at Ilen Street, Skibbereen.
Grace is the manager of Tullineaskey Equestrian Centre and also gives riding lessons to children with autism who benefit greatly from equine therapy.
Her mother Mary is very much involved in the day to day running of the centre and all that is involved in the care and management of their 30 horses.
‘She’s very much the boss lady,’ confirms Grace good humoredly.
‘Many families, not just my own have been affected by suicide, and I think that the work being done by Lisheens House is incredible,’ continued Grace.
‘I love that they are based here in West Cork, and it’s amazing what they provide including a totally free counselling service,’ she said.
The counselling service is offered by registered members of the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (IACP) in their dedicated room at the centre, which is named ‘Jonathan’s Room’ in memory of Jonathan Santry.
‘We’ve had amazing support for this fundraising event from all across the West Cork community and the wider “horsey fraternity” with so many people and businesses offering amazing prizes for the raffle, and I’d like to thank each and every one of them for their generous support,’ said Grace.
‘You never realise the impact of suicide until you meet others who have lost people they love and felt that they could not talk about it. We cannot keep this bottled up - we need to be open with one another, support one another and to work together as a community to do our best to prevent it from happening to others, which is why I support Lisheens House as that is exactly what they are doing,’ she said.
Completely funded and maintained by volunteers, Lisheens House was set up by Noreen Murphy in 2016 in conjunction with director Mick Kearns who have both also lost family members to suicide.
They fundraise tirelessly to keep the doors of the centre open for the community with their ethos being that the centre is all-inclusive and that ‘neither pocket nor postcode should mitigate against anybody getting the help they need.’
Noreen and Mick are determined to continue offering a space which nurtures positive mental health through music, art, yoga and other activities which promote relaxation as well as providing assistance to those in crisis.
Mick said: ‘Life is not all plain sailing for any of us. Events can just come out of the blue such as illness or bereavement and we want to nurture coping skills for those times which can befall any of us during the course of our lives.
‘We want to get the message across that we are here to provide the tools that may help people cope when those rough times hit,’ he said
Lisheens House do this in many ways such as tapping into the healing power of music through their free music library, art classes, yoga classes, games evenings, music and art appreciation, and running art exhibitions for all to enjoy.
There is a repair service due to start up in the New Year, and they also initiated ‘Phone a Friend’ another free service aimed at tackling rural isolation.
It was launched specifically for those who may feel isolated lonely or vulnerable perhaps through illness or otherwise.
Their latest addition is a ‘book nook’ – a relaxing space to read and browse their book library which will be completed in early 2019.
‘This year we have also delivered QPR -Suicide Prevention Training to many groups including schools and the Gardaí, and we also delivered a presentation on cyber bullying and mental health to Carbery Rangers GAA club,’ said Mick.
‘It is hoped to expand and develop these talks and training in the coming year, and it is thanks to Grace and others like her who fundraise for us and without whom we simply could not keep our doors open as we do not receive any government funding,’ he said.
Noreen Murphy director of Lisheens House added that she firmly believes that community based services are the way forward in relation to mental health.
‘And with the ongoing support of the people of West Cork we can change the outcomes one conversation at a time,’ she said.
• Contact Lisheens House on 023- 888 8888 or phone a friend on 028-51950, or see lisheenshouse.ie
• For more on the fundraiser see Facebook or call Grace on 086-1004505; to donate see www.gofundme 2day Charity Horse Show in Aid of Lisheens House.