THE sombre rain-cast skies were fitting on Monday, as a local mental health charity launched a heartfelt memory tree in the centre of the town to remember those affected by suicide. Organised by the Omagh Aware Committee, the beech tree stood 12-foot tall and fluttered with messages which had been written by local people in memory of their loved ones.
The Omagh Memory Tree poignantly marked ‘World Suicide Prevention Day’, which is observed worldwide every year on September 10 to provide commitment and action to prevent suicides.
The day further encourages people to engage with each other and join together to spread awareness that nobody is alone, and that ‘it is okay not to be okay’.
In Omagh, the idea of the memory tree was devised by local man, Lewis Boyd who sadly lost his wife, Hazel to suicide four years ago. Lewis and Hazel would have been celebrating their wedding anniversary on Sunday. The Omagh Memory Tree will soon be planted in Lewis’ garden in memory of Hazel.
Margaret McCrossan, Aware fundraising officer, said that people had travelled from all over the North to leave a special message on the tree and leave charity donations. “We had a lady come all the way to Omagh from Lisnaskea to remember her son who sadly took his own life,” said the Omagh woman. “The tree is to remember people who have died by suicide, and we purposefully launched it on World Suicide Prevention Day to mark the awareness event.
“At Aware, we believe that it is important to remember loved ones. The tree is our way of opening up and saying ‘we don’t forget about people who have died by suicide’. As a charity we will always support people with their mental health, and we are here for everyone.”
Aware is the depression charity for Northern Ireland, which has two offices in Belfast and Derry, and an established network of 23 support groups in rural and urban areas across the country.
There are a number of support groups in County Tyrone, including one in Omagh (Skeboy House, 1 Campsie Place, BT79 0FD); Dungannon (The Niamh Louise Foundation, 32 Coalisland Road, BT71 6LA) and Cookstown (Woodland Beacon Centre, 48c Molesworth Street, Cookstown, BT80 8PA).
These support groups are run by trained volunteers and welcome people with depression and bipolar disorder, as well as carers for people with the illness.
Aware deliver mental health and well-being programmes into communities, schools, colleges, universities and workplaces.