A heartbroken dad, whose 15 year-old son died by suicide says it is 'never too late to seek help' and believes people with any problems can get 'a great sense of relief' by just talking to someone.
Patrick Smyth said goodbye to his dad with a wide, cheeky grin as Eugene left the house to play cards but just hours later, he came home to find his beloved son's body in Athboy, Co. Meath
Patrick died just a month before his 16th birthday in 2011 and left his family completely devastated.
However, father of four Eugene and his family have had the strength to raise awareness of mental health issues through starting the first Darkness into Light walk for Pieta House in Navan six years ago.
"Patrick seemed out of sorts for about a year before he died. He always had loads of friends, was into his practical jokes and excelled at all sports, especially Gaelic and hurling for the local club Clan na nGael," he said.
"It's very hard to explain but we noticed something just wasn't right. He was a bit irrational and often seemed like a different person and he started looked for excuses to miss his much loved sports.
"He had also missed a long period at school.
"When he mentioned a few times when he was down that he wanted to 'get out of this place', we wondered if he was talking about the house or the town but in hindsight maybe it was something deeper.
"We were afraid to ask the questions in case we pushed him too far or away but once he confided to his sister Stacey (then 19) that he had contemplated taking his own life, we knew we had to get him some help."
The family thought Patrick had turned a corner when he started getting help through Pieta House and asking to go back to school through a nearby YouthReach programme.
Tragic.Patrick died just a month before his 16th birthday in 2011 and left his family completely devastated.
During it all, the family had practically stopped socialising themselves so they could stay at home and keep an eye on Patrick.
"He told his counsellor at Pieta. that he knew he was the reason we were staying in and we would help him more by going out again."
On February 28th 2011, Eugene never felt happier as he left his children, including a smiling Patrick, to go and play cards.
"It was about 8pm. My wife Una was working until nine and Patrick was on the PlayStation with friends. My younger son Robert (then 12) was watching TV with his older sister Carol (22) and Patrick had just confirmed a lift to school the next day.
Eugene with a picture of his son Patrick
"I asked him not to stay too long on the PlayStation and went to leave but I heard him say Dad, so I went back in and Patrick started laughing and saying, 'no, I didn't call you.'
"That was him to a tee, always a joker. Again he called a second time when I was in the hall and I went back in only for him to give me a big cheeky grin as if to say 'I gotcha'.
It was just a few hours later that life was to be changed forever for the family.
"My wife Una had come home and Patrick was all smiles to her before she went to bed early with Robert who wasn't feeling well. She had left Patrick in the sitting room watching TV.
"I knew when I walked in the door at midnight that something wasn't right. All the lights and the TV were on and there was no-one about. I ran to Una's room and asked where Patrick was before checking his own room. There was no sign of him
"I rang his phone but there was no reply. I went to the shed and found him behind the door. My screams alerted three neighbours who ran over and helped to get him down but it was too late.
"Suicide is not something you can ever plan to deal with or ever want to come across. It turns out, in Patrick's case, that when someone with mental health issues is on a high, that's when they should be watched even more."
Eugene and his family began organising walks and cycles to create awareness of mental health issues and raised over 26,000 for Pieta House and local charities in the first year.
The following year, he received a call from the charity asking him if he would be interested in starting the first Darkness into Light walk in Navan in 2013.
"In the last six years, we have raised €400,000 for Pieta House and the numbers taking part in the walkhave spiralled from 1500 to 4500, despite other walks being organised subsequently in other areas of the county.
"Last year we raised 76,000 for Pieta House alone to provide free counselling.
"There have been a lot of deaths of young men in recent years and a big part of it is that men don't talk enough. We are quick to talk about the football or the news but when it comes to talking about problems, we tend to clam up.
"I've had young people come to me confidentially for advice and I've had worried parents come to me not knowing what to say or do.
"My advice is that if someone confides in you, listen without judgement and ask have they thought about suicide or self harm. If they have, tell them you are there for them and that you will make that call to get the help they deserve.
"Early intervention can lead to faster solutions but it's never, never too late to look for help
"We can all do our bit to eradicate suicide," he concluded.
If you need to talk to someone, contact Pieta House:
Pieta House MidlandsSeán Costello Street,
Phone: 090 642 4111 OR
Samaritans Call Freephone: 116 123
Text: 087 2 60 90 90