‘My life and world was ripped apart when my son took his own life’

Colette Snoddy holding a picture of her son, Matthew, who tragically took his own life in May 2015
Colette Snoddy holding a picture of her son, Matthew, who tragically took his own life in May 2015

A Newtownabbey woman who tragically lost her son to suicide is calling on the public to get behind a major suicide awareness event.

Colette Snoddy’s only child Matthew took his own life on May 14 last year. He was just 18-years-old.

In memory of her beloved son, she has been working to bring the Darkness Into Light walk - an international suicide awareness event - to Newtownabbey for the first time.

“To say that Matthew was my world is an understatement,” Colette said.

“My life and world has been ripped apart in a way I could never have thought humanly possible - life will never be the same again.

‘‘Every day is a struggle.

‘‘I am consumed with my grief and at times it completely overwhelms me.

‘‘There are days when I can barely keep my head above water.

‘‘ I feel that I am drowning in my own tears, but with the constant support of friends and family, they have helped me survive this awful pain, and for that I am eternally grateful.”

In a bid to bring hope to those in the depths of despair, and families bereaved by suicide, Colette approached Dublin-based suicide and self-harm crisis centre Pieta House about the possibility of bringing its Darkness Into Light (DIL) event to Co Antrim for the first time.

And thanks to the support of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council and a committee of local volunteers, the 5km early morning walk/run is scheduled to take place at V36 park on Saturday, May 7.

Members of the public are being urged to sign up for the event, which aims to make people more ‘suicide aware’ and raise funds for Pieta House and local suicide prevention charity Lighthouse.

Speaking at the launch of DIL 2016, Colette highlighted some shocking statistics about the increasing number of suicides in Northern Ireland, particularly among males.

“As many have died from suicide in Northern Ireland since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 as were killed in the entire Troubles,” she said.

“Matthew took his life on a Thursday, and by the Monday morning - four days later - four other young people had done the same.

‘‘The figures are staggering.

‘‘If you don’t know somebody personally, you’ll know of someone connected to somebody who has taken their own life.’’

She pointed out that three-quarters of people in Northern Ireland who take their own life are male.

At the time of his death Matthew was studying for his As levels at tech.

‘‘He did his first As on the morning he took his own life, ’’ she said.

Colette said other people’s reactions to her grief has been a learning curve,

‘‘Near virtual strangers have been so kind to me.

‘‘I’ve learnt now to take the good things and leave the bad things behind,’’

Colette, a theatre nurse, went back to work two months after Matthew died.

‘‘I love my work and that was my sanctuary there.

‘‘Now, I know I still have to be back in work - I get up every morning and go to the gym, put my make-up on, but my grief is still huge.’’

Stressing that “suicide affects all creeds and colours”, Colette explained that Darkness Into Light has given her hope - something she aims to share with others.

“I read an article by bereaved mother and author Angela Miller entitled ‘You Are The Mother of All Mothers’.

‘‘It said: ‘Even if you don’t believe in hope, not even a little, hope will light the way for you. At times you won’t realise your path is lit, the darkness feels all consuming when you are in it, but know that the light is there surrounding you.’

“That is exactly how I feel about the Darkness Into Light walk.

‘‘It has given me hope - hope for a future, that for those who are in the depths of despair and darkness and somehow can’t see a way forward, with increased awareness of support groups such as Lighthouse, that those people at risk do not take the drastic action taken by my son Matthew, and so many others like him.”

Colette added: “A few months after Matthew’s death, a close friend said to me that she didn’t think we had heard the last of Matthew Snoddy.

‘‘At the time I couldn’t even imagine what that might be; it was all I could do to focus on the next day, never mind what might happen in the future.

‘‘But just 10 months after Matthew’s death, she has been proved right.

‘‘I couldn’t let a year go by without doing something to ensure another family do not have to go through this awful nightmare that will remain with me for the rest of my life.’’

*If you or someone you know is in distress or despair, call Lifeline on 0808 808 8000.

The free-phone helpline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

You can also access the Lifeline website www.lifelinehelpline.info.