Friday 19 January 2018

Enniscorthy woman lives to help those in anguish

Touched By Suicide founder Kay Quinn, above, at the shop in Enniscorthy, and, left, her late sons James (16) and Harry (27).
Touched By Suicide founder Kay Quinn, above, at the shop in Enniscorthy, and, left, her late sons James (16) and Harry (27).
Touched By Suicide founder Kay Quinn, above, at the shop in Enniscorthy, and, left, her late sons James (16) and Harry (27).
The late, Harry Quinn 27.

If Enniscorthy woman Kay Quinn won the lottery in the morning, she would build a big drop-in centre where people in distress could come for support and help.

Others dream of world cruises and fancy cars. Kay lives to ease the pain of people in mental anguish.

Why? Because she lost two of her five sons to suicide - her youngest, 16-year-old James in 1999 and her eldest, 27-year-old Harry in 2005.

Two years after Harry's death, she co-founded a charity to raise funds for counselling services for people who are affected by the suicide of a loved one or are suicidal themselves, with a second hand shop as the mainstay cash cow.

The Castle Hill shop doesn't airbrush the cause. It's called Touched By Suicide, after the name of the charity and that's what the sign says.

Some people were uncomfortable about the directness of the shop sign and there was a temporary attempt to change it to TBS but passers-by kept confusing it with the TSB bank.

Touched By Suicide has never received Government funding but now employs two full-time counsellors based above Enniscorthy Medical Centre in Court Street, Enniscorthy.

What drives Kay is the wish to prevent others suffering the pain that she experienced following the deaths of her two beloved sons.

Fire fighter Harry's death was unexpected but there was a build-up, he had self-harmed and had been treated in St Senan's Hospital on a number of occasions but with teenager James, there was no sign, according to Kay who still remembers the circumstances surrounding each of their deaths in forensic detail. Her husband Pat also lost his 29-year-old brother Jessie through suicide.

'The next morning after James died I had to identify him. There was sleep in his eyes because he didn't have time to wash his face before he went out that morning. There were little tufts of hair on his chin that you didn't notice before. Even though it's years ago, it's just like today.

'I know somebody out there is in the same boat as I was and they need help and that's what keeps me going,' said Kay who has three other sons and twin daughters.

Kay runs a 24-hour helpline on her own phone (087 6280952) offering access to the counsellors who speak to clients and decide whether someone first needs to see a GP.

The public attitude to mental ill-health is improving, according to Kay. 'People are starting to talk about depression and they feel they're not alone anymore.

'What's lacking is a quick response service. If someone rings up and asks for help, they need help in that half hour. They don't need an answering machine telling them to leave their name and number.

'We could get a call from someone saying I'm standing on the bridge in Enniscorthy and I'm going to jump. I don't live too far away from the bridge. I'll go there and say here I am, I'm talking to you. I haven't smoked in 22 years but I always carry a pack of cigarettes and a lighter in my bag. Sometimes it's someone sitting on a doorstep crying.

'I know how they feel. It's okay to be angry but they have to forgive the person they are angry at. I've been down to the edge of the river myself.

'It got to the stage I didn't want to live any more. I was ashamed of meeting people on the street because my sons took their own lives.

'Everything happens for a reason. I look at life a lot differently now. Some people don't get five minutes with their children.'

Kay said the closure of St. Senan's Hospital had a major impact on mental health sufferers in the county.

'St. Senan's was a godsend to us as it was a place we could bring people from the streets and from the bridge and it was safe. When someone is suicidal, they need to be looked after and put somewhere safe.

'Now we have nowhere to bring them and there isn't enough rooms for people from across the South East in the mental health ward in University Hospital Waterford.

'I have seen people here and it breaks my heart every day as I know they will be put out again after a day or two when they need more care,' said Kay.

She criticised the inhumane way people are forced to wait for hours in hospital A&Es in Wexford and Waterford.

'It is so cruel on patients. The services in the A&E are dreadful. I don't blame the staff, I blame the Government. They're spending the money everything but what's needed. We don't need a 10-bed place, we need a big hospital.

'Mental health problems are on the increase. People are only opening up.

'If I won the lottery, I'd have a drop-in centre where people could come for counselling services and other different activities.'

Wexford People

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