Irish Groups Tackle Depression and Suicide

(Photo by Alan Cleaver, Creative Commons license)

(Photo by Alan Cleaver, Creative Commons license)

Depression is often hidden in the Irish community in New York, and a cultural stigma against seeking help may result in suicide, reports IrishCentral. Indeed, leaders of Irish nonprofits worry about the consequences of untreated depression in their community.

“We are aware of a number of suicides in the community over the last few years,” Órla Kelleher, Executive Director of the Aisling Irish Community Center in Yonkers, told IrishCentral.

“I think there may be a lot more cases than we are aware of,” she added.

“The shock was the fact there were no warning signs in some cases.”

Irish community centers, such as Aisling, offer community members a suicide prevention program that includes free counseling with social workers, as well as meditation and healing workshops.

Kelleher says that the program has been effective in helping people to develop their coping skills, and that feedback from the community has been very positive. Meanwhile Siobhan Dennehy, executive director of Emerald Isle Immigration Center, says that her center’s counseling has been successful in saving lives.

Still, actually getting some members of the Irish community to acknowledge that they have a problem with depression and encouraging them to seek out and accept help can be a particularly difficult battle.

Elizabeth Donnelly, the Aisling Center’s social service and program development coordinator, says many never seek help.

“It is still such a stigma,” Donnelly told IrishCentral. “People don’t want to admit they need help.”

“Generally when someone comes in, they are in dire need.”

Tyrone-born author Colin Broderick, whose book “Orangutan” details his battle against alcohol addition while working in construction in New York City, affirms that there is a strong stigma associated with seeking help.

“Nobody wants to be seen ducking into an Irish place offering help in those communities,” he told IrishCentral.

“Everybody is terrified that someone will find out they are suffering.”

“The biggest part of it is fear, fear of looking like you are different, like you are not conforming to what is normal in the Irish community.”

Broderick, 45, said that alcohol played a destructive role in his life when he was younger, and cut him off from family, religion and community. Sober for the past six years, he says that people should realize that it’s okay to ask for help.

“I suffered terribly with depression, but I am living proof you can get better,” Broderick told IrishCentral.

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