Last week a sea of orange enveloped Donegal heightening awareness of a tragedy that is becoming all too common in society.
As Jim Breen and Cycle against Suicide travelled the county one thing became apparent; this was not an occasion for lectures, this was a time for talking, sharing and listening as well as celebrating the life we live today.
Speaking at the Abbey Vocational School in Donegal the National Ombudsman for Children Dr. Niall Muldoon said that for too long Ireland had kept mental illness a secret and that now was the time to speak out.
“Cycle against Suicide has helped to bring this to the forefront and I am proud to be part of it. You are the parents of the future and you have the opportunity to bring change.”
For Sadhbh O’Connell, the daughter of the late Brenawn speaking in Donegal Town where her father died was a deeply emotional moment.
Sadhbh recalled, “May 7, 2014 was a perfectly normal day. Around 11.00 am I was called out of the office and my first reaction was “What have I done wrong?” I saw a ban garda in the office and I just said, “Whatever I have done it’s serious.”
“She looked at me and just blurted out “Your father has just been killed in an accident in Donegal –it was just a blur.
“My visit to Donegal in those days of the accident were bittersweet – looking at the place where he had been killed but also experiencing the outpouring of love that both the cyclists and the people of Donegal had shown.
“Up until now Cycle against Suicide for me was associated with death and grief, it was all negative. I knew this was irrational and I knew that I had to jump in – I volunteered and these last few days have been fantastic – a healing process.
The RTE Show “Secret Millionaire” was the catalyst that brought Bundoran’s Ramona Nicholas and Jim Breen together. Both had appeared on the first series and both had lived a demanding busy life.
Speaking in Bundoran,Ramona spoke openly “in school I just tried so hard to fit in with everyone else, I just wanted to be one of the gang but I soon learned it was perfectly fine to be yourself – actually it was cool to be different, to retain your own individuality.
“As life went on I realised the importance of real friendship, family and the importance of talking things out and listening.
“The worst thing we can do is bottle things up – it just burns a hole in all of us.
“People often think when they see someone on television that everything is fine – we all have problems but we all can find solutions. We just have to learn how to talk, learn how to listen and really believe – “It really is OK not to feel OK ”