Cuddly bear aims to help people struggling with their mental health

By Aideen O'Flaherty

A SUICIDE prevention bear was put up at Ballycragh Park in Tallaght last week, with the aim of helping people who are struggling with their mental health.

The suicide prevention bears are placed at various locations in communities, alongside a solar light and posters containing information on how to contact suicide and self-harm prevention charity Pieta House.

Ballycreagh 03 1

One of the suicide prevention bears on the gate in Ballycragh Park

The bears are the brainchild of Wexford man Mick Ryan, who lost his 22-year-old son, Sean Paul, to suicide in 2004.

Mick began volunteering with Pieta House seven years ago, and he handed out suicide prevention teddy bears to people to put in the back window of their cars, along with information about contacting Pieta House.

However, when the pandemic began last March, Mick decided to start putting suicide prevention teddy bears, along with solar powered lights to provide light in the darkness, near rivers and bridges instead.

Volunteers, such as the volunteer who placed the bear at Ballycragh Park, then got on board with the idea and have been placing the cuddly toys and helpline information at locations around the country.

“There could be a chap walking down the road in the darkness and he’s in trouble,” Mick told The Echo.

“But then he might see the solar light in the distance and the teddy, and it might pull him away from what he’s thinking of doing, and then he’ll see the sign saying, ‘Your family loves you’.”

The bears are already having an impact, as Mick said Pieta House have told him they have been contacted by people who called the helpline number placed next to one of the suicide prevention bears to seek help.

A volunteer who placed a bear at the Naas dual carriageway last year asked Mick if they could name the bear Sean Paul, after his late son, which Mick was touched by and sees as an important part of his son’s legacy.

“My son is there, helping others,” Mick reflected. “He’s out there on that bridge with his solar light, helping other people who are struggling.

“The week after Sean Paul died, a white dove kept coming to the house and it felt like he was saying, ‘I’m at peace now, but I want you to keep going to save others.’

“And now other people are helping out and are trying to prevent other people from losing their lives.

“Sean Paul died 17 years ago, but it never really goes away.”

Mick is appealing to people to put up suicide prevention bears in their area. Mick provides volunteers with cable ties for the bears and posters with information on contacting Pieta House, while volunteers source their own bears and solar lights.

Anyone who wants to get involved can contact Mick on 087 914 0261.

For information on Pieta House and its support services visit Pieta, or call the Pieta House helpline on 1800 247 247, or its Dublin South branch on 01 462 4792.

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