Its been a while. Must be almost four years now since we last talked. I’m gonna be honest, it’s really fucking difficult writing this letter. I would have done it sooner but I don’t think I would’ve been able.
I still think about you sometimes. Something stupid and small will remind of you. Like the other day I was trying to find some notes for our neighbour doing the leaving cert. I found my old Maths copy and it was covered in penises. Cheers for that.
I remember the first time we met and our parents forcing us to talk. We were only about 6 or 7. If I remember correctly, the awkward conversation revolved around our mutual love of ‘Tony Hawks Pro Skater 2’. I remember becoming friends after that, skating around our estate terrorising our neighbours. Shitting our pants on our first day of secondary school together. Competing for the same position on the rugby team. You using your brothers ID to buy us drink. The time we mitched off school to smoke our first joint. Graduating school together and feeling a bit lost. Our 6th year holiday to Magaluf, where neither of us got the ride because we were always too pissed. I remember the day your Dad died, and you seemed fine, like everything was normal. We grew up together. Now I’m about to graduate college and go into the real world.
But you’re not here to do that with me.
I’ll always remember the day it happened. I was going to text you but thought I’d leave it for another while. The phone call I got, and that was it. You were gone forever. I remember trying to tell our friends what happened. Not being able to look them in the eye. Stumbling over my words until I eventually got it out. Watching their reaction. Not knowing what to do. That was the hardest thing I ever had to do. I was still a kid. So were you.
I remember being angry for a long time. Angry at you. Angry that you left without saying goodbye. Angry that you didn’t leave us a note. Angry that you caused us so much pain, and we didn’t even know why. Angry about what you did to us. To your Mam. To your Brother. To our friends. To me.
I was angry at myself. How could I have not known you were going through that? Or did I know and just not do anything? Why didn’t I help you? I kept thinking back to times when the moment was there to reach out and help but I didn’t. You were right there in front of me suffering. Across the road from my house in pain and I wasn’t there for you.
I kept blaming myself. Blaming you. I used to think that all this suffering and pain was our fault. But we weren’t to blame for what happened. It’s only now I’m realising it wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t your fault.
It must have taken a lot to keep that to yourself. I can’t imagine the pain you were going through. I think, actually, I know if you had come to me I would’ve been there for you. It would’ve been awkward and uncomfortable but I was your friend. I would’ve helped you through it. But you didn’t, and that’s ok. I understand why you didn’t.
From the moment we were born the idea of being a man was shoved down our throats. We’re told that feelings are for girls. We shouldn’t cry. We shouldn’t be vulnerable. We shouldn’t talk to each other about our problems. We should keep them to ourselves. We’re men, we need to be strong.
I remember trying not to cry when I fell off my skateboard, or us laughing at someone who did. I remember in school, making fun of each other and our friends for showing the slightest bit of weakness. I think slagging each other was the only way we knew how to show affection. I remember you didn’t get the points you wanted in the leaving cert. You never talked about how disappointed you were. I remember when your Dad died, you were acting as if everything was fine, and I believed you. I remember you were drinking more than usual. Going out more, and going to college less. I remember feeling that something was up. I felt like I didn’t need to talk to you about it. You probably felt the same.
And we didn’t talk.
Now I think about what could have been. What my life would’ve been like if you were still around. What you would be up to now. If we lived in a world where we were told that it’s ok to cry sometimes. If strength and bravery was to show weakness and vulnerability, not hide it. If we felt like we could talk to each other. If being a man was not to keep pain to yourself, but to reach out for help when you need it.
Maybe you’d still be here.
I want to thank you for giving me some of the best memories of my life and I’m sad that you’re not here to make some more. I’ll always remember you.
This is the story of Brian and me.
But this is a story that’s all too familiar in Ireland. Every year hundreds of people take their own lives in Ireland. 1 in 5 Irish young people suffer from problems with their mental health. While there have been great strides towards breaking the stigma associated with mental health, it is still a huge problem. People, especially young men, don’t feel as though they can talk about their mental health. After Brian’s death I suffered from severe anxiety and depression. The only way I got through it was having the courage to ask for help. I reached out to my friends and family and they supported me. I’m happy to say I’m healthy again, and I owe a lot to those that helped.
I learned probably the hardest way imaginable that if you suffer from mental health problems, get help. If you broke your leg you would get help. We should look at our mental health in the same way. If you are suffering from issues with your mental health, please reach out and ask for help. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. Your friends and family will be there to support you through it. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to them, there’s plenty of services out there that can help you.
Here are just a few:
Phone: 1800 247 247
For children under the age of 18
Phone: 1800 66 66 66
Phone: 01 116 123
One for Ireland are fundraising for the provision of the incredible and much needed mental health services provided to young people in Ireland over the coming weekend. Please donate and show your support.