‘Light for Life’ was Out in UL’s main event for SoUL week. Students and staff will had the opportunity to place a candle on a small paper boat along with the name of someone they know who has taken their own life.
Originally it was envisioned that the event would focus on those in the LGBTQ community who have suffered with mental health issues and committed suicide given the frightening statistics associated with the queer community.
According to research carried out by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, gay people in this country are seven times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual counterparts. As well as this there are some studies that say that nearly half of transgender youth have thought about suicide with one in four attempting it. The 2009 Supporting LGBT Lives study found that 27% of LGBTQ people had self-harmed and that 20% had missed school because they were threatened or felt unsafe.
What people sometimes forget is that queer people don’t just ‘Come Out’ once and suddenly they never have to worry about it again. Members of the LGBTQ community come out every single day in different situations that they find themselves in. This can not only be extremely tiring and frustrating, it can also be very taxing on their mental health and mental resilience to constantly go through that stress and anxiety in worrying about other peoples’ reactions, especially if they’ve had negative experiences in the past.
However no one part of society can have ownership on depression and it was decided that we should extend the invitation to the entire college and elsewhere so we all could be part of that incredibly powerful night.
Lights for Life was special because it meant something uniquely different to each person in attendance. Lights for Life was special because in some way or another, the unforgiving, unrelenting disease of depression, anxiety and negative mental health has impacted on all our lives in some way. Lights for Life was special because it was a sign that we, as a community, are no longer going to allow the fear and stigma surrounding mental health to bind us. Lights for Life was special because we not only remembered the brilliant side of all the people who we have lost, but we also acknowledged the pain and suffering that they went through and agreed that we must do more to look out for those around us.
What started out in what was just going to be remembering those of the queer community who we have lost to suicide grew into something much more universal. Suicide in 21st century Ireland has unfortunately become a horrible but inevitable part of all our lives. As we saw from all who turned up that night, it has been something that the youth and students have grown up with. Always in the background. Always invisible. But always there.
Light for Life and other events like this are what needs to be done to stop this sad realisation from continuing on into other generations, we’re going in the right direction. Openness and discussion on all issues regarding mental health is crucial. Just asking a simple “Hey, is everything ok?” or keeping an eye out for the signs can make the world of difference.
For anyone feeling down or who think they might need help, the resources and people are there for you too. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. God knows we all need an ear to listen to us every now and then. UL counselling service and chaplaincy, organisations such as Pieta House are amazing resources who’s doors are always open for anyone that needs them.
As we released our boats onto the water, we also released any worries and anxieties that we may have had in our own lives.
We thought of those that have gone and hoped that, at least now, they are at peace.