“I knew the day I buried PJ, I was losing Mikey,” recalled a heartbroken mother who lost two teenage sons to suicide within 13 weeks last year.
As PJ Matthews’ one-year anniversary nears New Year’s Eve, her mother, Patrice, has announced that she is involved in a new community group to help save young people from suicide.
The 17-year-old PJ, from Castlebellingham, County Louth, took his own life on the family farm and just 13 weeks later his 18-year-old brother took his own life after being devastated by the death of his close sibling’s death.
“PJ was a character. He would push you to the edge and be the first to try new things,” Patrice told LMFM’s Late Lunch programme, reports The Mirror.
“He left school after fifth year because he was mad to work. He was great with his hands and could take anything apart and put it back together again, especially tractors and vintage tractors, which he loved. He’d take on any job and finish it completely. Last Christmas week, he went off shopping with his work bonus and he was in top form. We all sat together on Christmas Day and had the craic around the table on St Stephen’s Day before he went off with his friends. We went out to my nephew’s 30th birthday and we were all home before 10pm. PJ landed back with friends and started singing and playing the spoons that he had taught himself from the internet. Within an hour, something changed and he became very upset. He was inconsolable and wouldn’t tell me what was wrong. I remember going outside to talk to him and I coaxed him up to the bed and I sat at the end of it. He then bolted up and said he had to go and clear his head. I followed him but saw he was walking up the lane to the farm behind the house. The yard lights were on and I thought his dad was up there with the cattle so I left him for five minutes. “I then went up and found him in the medicine shed. I remember rubbing my hands on his face and his tears were tripping. I asked him to come back to house and he agreed. He walked on so I presumed he was ahead of us but when I got back to the house he wasn’t there. I messaged him and he said he was on his way. Then I messaged him again and got nothing back so I said to his younger brother Bukie (Conor) ‘I’m going up there, what’s the Eircode of the yard?’ I’d a sick feeling and just knew we would need an ambulance. As I was going through the gates of the farmyard, I saw the doors of the same barn I took him out of 10 minutes earlier closed. The light was on and I heard music. The minute I opened the door, he was right in front of me. “I’ll never forget the screams of Bukie and then I realised it was actually me screaming.” reports The Mirror.
Ambulances arrived within minutes and PJ was transferred to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, where he died on December 31.
While they struggled to come to terms with their grief, the devastation would not strike again until 13 weeks later, when Patrice’s eldest son, Mikey, took his own life.
Patrice added: “I knew the day that I buried PJ, that I was losing Mikey,” reports The Mirror.
Mikey was visiting his best friend who was playing a football game and had gotten home and gone to bed when worried friends called home after receiving a text message from him
Patrice admits she is concerned for her three other children, who are receiving counseling over their grief.
“Bukie was there when both his brothers were found so I scourge his phone with calls and messages when he is not with me. If he doesn’t answer, I’ll call his friends for reassurance that he is OK. Our house isn’t the same anymore. Even the silence is different. Everything is different,” reports The Mirror.
Friends Sandra and Patrick Byrne, from local company Eliteform Manufacturing Ltd, had the idea of recently starting SAFE Castlebellingham to provide a more local ‘go-to’ counseling service for anyone with mental health problems.
The concept has received tremendous support from the community that has lent its support and Sandra hopes that the SAFE model will be emulated by other communities.
“The whole community wanted to do something but we weren’t sure what. Other services are fantastic but you need appointments to access the services. Suicide doesn’t do appointments. We reached out and two counsellors immediately volunteered their time. Now we are fundraising for a mobile unit which will move to different villages a few days each week and be on site for anyone who needs to talk. Even its presence will create awareness” she said, reports The Mirror.
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