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Tormented by bullies


Andrew McGuinn
TORTURED SOUL’?Crossmolina man Andrew McGuinn (21) took his own life after being the victim of bullying, an inquest into his death heard.

Tormented by bullies

Family of a Crossmolina man who took his own life encourages people not to suffer in silence

Anton McNulty

The family of a young Crossmolina man who took his own life after he suffered months of bullying and torment have encouraged young people not to ‘suffer in silence’ and to understand there are viable alternatives to suicide.
Andrew McGuinn (21) of Mullenmore, Crossmolina, suffered from nearly a year of abuse and harassment unbeknown to his family. He took his own life on the evening of April 2, 2012. He was found dead by his mother the following morning in his bedroom of his family home in Crossmolina.
The 21-year-old had no history of depression. His mother Carmel told his inquest in Ballina last week that she saw nothing out of the ordinary in the days before his death. The thought of her son committing suicide never occurred to her, she said.
A suicide note was not found at the scene, but a few days following his death, a memory stick was discovered which contained an eight-page letter. The letter outlined how he had suffered from many months of harassment and bullying, which led him to think about taking his life.

Andrew was described as a shy and private individual who kept his feelings to himself. Even his close friends were not aware of the level of abuse he sustained.
His sister, Niamh, read an emotional statement on behalf of the family. She explained that her brother’s death had left an ‘eternal void’ in the lives of his family and friends.
She said there were no warning signs before his death, and she said that ‘rather than brushing the subject of suicide under the carpet’, the issue needed to be tackled.
“We need to educate and protect the vulnerable from the idea that suicide is a viable alternative to living through temporarily unbearable pain,” she said.
“Andrew did not talk to anyone about the effect and anguish that bullying was having on him, even to his closest family and friends. We, as his family, wish more than anything that he could have shared his feelings with us and believe that if Andrew had done this, that we would have been able to help him in dealing with his inner pain and torment. Andrew’s reluctance to talk about his feelings compounded the isolation and mental anguish he was experiencing.”
Niamh added that she hoped that highlighting the issues that Andrew went through before his death would give people who are suffering in similar circumstances the courage to ‘reach out and seek help’.
“Andrew ultimately was a tortured soul. His experiences had a devastating effect on him and his death will continue to have a devastating effect on our family for the rest of our lives. We hope that by highlighting some of the issues which led to Andrew’s decision to end his life, that it may encourage others vulnerable young people to reach out and seek help, instead of suffering in silence like Andrew did, and that other families would not have to endure the heartbreak and devastation that suicide leaves in its wake,” she explained.
Dr Eleanor Fitzgerald, Coroner for North Mayo, said that Andrew suffered mainly from verbal abuse and that it ‘got to him’. He felt the only way to stop what was going on was to take his own life, she said.
The coroner said lessons needed to be learned from his tragic death and communities needed to act to prevent bullying and intimidation from taking place.
“Andrew suffered a traumatic end to his life and this should have been prevented. Lessons can be learned and there needs to be  more awareness of people’s sensibilities if we are to be able to detect if persons are suffering from the effects of it [bullying]. Communities have to act to prevent this from happening, and it should involve all groups such as the gardaí, medical, teachers and the clergy. We’ve got to be more proactive about it,” she said.

Gentle, quiet, witty
Niamh remembers her brother as a witty person, who could make his family laugh.
“In life Andrew was a gentle soul who was both quiet and witty. Although he was an individual of few words, those he said were well chosen and witty. Andrew’s sense of humour and wit was not always apparent to those he did not know well, but to us he was the person who could make the family laugh. Andrew had so much more to offer in life and he has been greatly missed. His death has left an eternal void in the lives of his family and friends.”
Niamh thanked the Coroner and the Gardaí for their assistance. She also thanked family, friends and the community for their support and kindness during her family’s sad time.
The jury recorded a verdict that Andrew died from suicide and recognised that intimidation had been involved, and commented that this was regretful. They recommended that people being bullied or intimidated seek help and not keep their trouble to themselves. They also requested that the issue be raised publicly, especially in the local media.
The issue of suicide was highlighted further at last week’s inquests in Ballina, which also dealt with the suicide of a 40-year-old mother of two children under ten years. The woman took her life in her home after giving breakfast to her children. While she had a history of depression, there was no indication in the days before that she intended to take her life.

HAVE YOUR SAY email antonmcnulty@mayonews.ie with your comments