The mother of a seventeen-year-old boy who took his own life back in 2008 has revealed how comic Brendan O’Carrolls alter ego, Agnes Browne, made her smile again.
Marie Johnston, from Navan, spoke to Meath Live in the lead up to World Mental Health Day, this Sunday, and revealed ‘ About two months after my son Brian died my other son stuck a Mrs. Browne video on and as I watched it I started to laugh because it was so funny, it was the first time I had smiled since his passing, but I couldn’t sustain the laughter.
‘I actually ended up in tears because I felt so guilty about laughing and enjoying myself, I felt like I shouldn’t be smiling at all.
‘Tears came easily to me back then, when I would be out shopping the first thing I would pick up was the local free sheet newspaper which I would hold up to my face to hide the fact I was crying as I was buying the groceries.
‘Simple well-meant gestures even got to me, I thought the day would never come when someone would say ‘Hi Marie’, instead of ‘Hi Marie how are you coping’, of course, other people don’t set out to hurt you but that really got to me.
‘The thing that still sticks in my mind is the constant ringing of the phone with people wanting to know what happened and why it happened. It sounds daft now but I seriously considered reciting the story into my answer phone and letting whoever called listen to that.
‘There were days when I just wanted to sleep all day and blot everything out, I wasn’t depressed or that I just couldn’t be bothered with doing anything and the first thing in the morning used to be the worst time, I realised Brian wasn’t there and the realisation hit me like a slap in the face.
‘Sleep never came easily anyway as any time I would doze off I would get flashbacks and be jolted wide awake’.
Marie was the one who discovered her son’s body, on a Sunday that will forever be etched in her memory bank.
‘ Brian had mental health issues and had been smoking weed which didn’t help him, it calms a lot of people but he reacted differently to it, I had been to the GP and all the rest of it but I felt nobody listened to me, they heard what I was saying, but weren’t really listening.
‘I’ll give you an example, Brian was referred to an addiction counsellor, but he only used weed occasionally, and didn’t actually have an addiction problem, that is what I mean about me not being listened to.
‘The Sunday he died I was reading a book in my bedroom and heard him come in and go into his room, a while later I looked in and found him, the rest of the family were out so I had to get a neighbour to come and help me take him down.
‘In the immediate aftermath I just remember being drained, tired beyond belief, and in complete and utter shock, it was the second hammer blow inside a few months as my dad who lived with us had recently died as well.
‘Your thought process becomes all jumbled at the time, I have three other kids and remember thinking I just want them to stay with me 24/7 so they won’t come to harm.’
Brian died in the summer and the following December Marie joined suicide charity, Save Our Sons And Daughters, (SOSAD), and is now the group’s Louth/Meath coordinator.
She says, ‘Talk about being thrown in at the deep end, I was given a computer and a phone which was the emergency contact number for the region, and the first lady who called me on it has become one of my closest friends.
‘When I took that first call I was petrified I hadn’t a clue what I was doing, but I must have improved because I am still at it.
‘If you suspect someone has suicidal thoughts there are a few red flags you should watch for, has their diet changed, are their sleeping patterns changed, and are they neglecting their personal care, we are here to help but if it is an emergency situation then act on that.
‘Call the emergency services immediately, get an ambulance, the guards, or whoever you need, and don’t worry about what the neighbours will think when they see a squad car or ambulance at your house, just get that person help.’