Monday marked the beginning of ‘World Mental Health Week’, and over the past few days, we’ve discussed the stigma attached to mental illness and highlighted the importance of seeking help.
No one has had quite a profound effect on changing thoughts and attitudes towards the topic of suicide quite like the inspirational Kerry lad, Donal Walsh.
Actively campaigning against teen suicide, 16-year-old Donal touched the entire country with his message, urging youth to appreciate life, referring to suicide as, ‘a permanent solution to a temporary problem.’
Donal, who had battled with cancer since 2008, passed away in May and we’ve caught up with his Mum, Elma, to see how her courageous son’s message was being continued.
Donal Walsh with Mum, Elma and Dad, Fionnbar.
The Donal Walsh Live Life Foundation was set up by parents Elma and Fionnbar, already the funds have founded two teenage counseling rooms in Tralee, a template the foundation wishes continue work throughout several counties.
“It’s unreal really, the generosity, people feel that Donal did something for them personally and that’s their way of saying thanks,” Elma said.
Elma revealed that Donal had initial reservations over publishing his writings, believing that his message would be more ‘effective’ after his death. However as all Irish mammies do, Elma knew best and when Kerry’s Eye visited Donal’s home to interview him, Elma made sure to tell them about his powerful statement on suicide.
“I knew he had a powerful statement to make at the time and that’s why I asked him to publish.
“He knew what he wanted to say and he got it out the way he wanted to say it.”
In his writings and appearance on the Saturday Night show, Donal delivered one very poignant line and that was, he would be happy to die if it meant he had saved someone else’s life.
Last month a coroners report in Kerry, the county, which had held the highest suicide rate in the country, revealed that death by suicide had decreased as a direct result of Donal’s message.
“It is a wonderful feeling,” Elma said, “it’s a life saved.”
Donal’s television appearance with Brendan O’Connor touched the entire nation.
In recent months the Walsh’s have been approached by people of all ages, wishing to express their sincerest thanks and gratitude, with many revealing stories of loved ones seeking help because of Donal.
“Donal aimed at teenagers but others took up the gauntlet, and just had a chat with themselves I suppose.“
“He’d be stunned and amazed, and he’d be delighted that he saved lives. He’d be doing a jig,” Elma continued.
“He must be doing a jig up there to say that he saved lives.”
Donal made his courageous television appearance with Brendan O’ Connor in April and died one month later, although his health prevented him from being apart of it, Elma stated that the inspirational teenager did know how his message was being received.
“He had that month to know that things were going the way that he wanted them to go, and he was delighted with that.
“He’d be absolutely chuffed and amazed that people paid attention to him, as a 16-year-old. “
Fionnbar and Elma Walsh collect the Spirit of Humanity Award at Trinity during the week.
Donal received a Young People of The Year award, the event marked the first time all of the Live Life Foundation board members were together in one room, at the City West Hotel in Dublin.
“He’d have loved to have been there, it was so unexpected,” Elma added.
Donal often referred to his struggle with cancer as ‘climbing mountains’ so it was only fitting that one of the main fundraising events held this year in his name was a charity climb up Mount Brandon, dubbed ‘Donal’s Mountain’.
“People are giving us things, we have never had to ask for anything,” Elma continued thankfully.
On 15th May 2014, 60 celebrities will compete in a golf tournament at Adare Manor, Co. Limerick with all proceeds going towards the Donal Walsh Live Life Foundation.
To get involved, make a donation or for any further information, visit www.donalwalshlivelife.org