Noelle McAlinden lost two sisters to suicide. We can’t imagine…
She works tirelessly to raise awareness of ways to tackle this terrible societal malaise.
Stick on the kettle, pour yourself a coffee and honour Noelle’s bravery and her sisters’ memories by taking a few minutes to hear what she has to say.
We Were There When… Our Hearts Broke Hearing Noelle McAlinden Speak About Losing Two Sisters To Suicide.
Yours Truly: A very good morning, you are more than welcome to another episode. This is episode 78 of the Coffee at Eleven Show, brought to you by Wig-Wam.ie, SME Peer Support. Delighted to have you here. And in particular, I’m delighted to have my special guest, who’s Zooming in from the North of Ireland. And it’s Noelle McAlinden. Noelle, please say hello and show us your coffee mug. Thank you.
Noelle McAlinden: Good morning, Colm, cheers. This is my coffee cup. It’s made in Enniskillen by Anne McNulty so a piece of piece of authentic craft to start the day. So feel very privileged to come for the opportunity so thank you very, very much. At the moment, I’m dedicated to an all island focus with [inaudible 00:00:49] and a driver from Ballybofey. And a number of friends across the island of Ireland and agencies, to try and reduce the numbers of suicide, celebrate life in the widest context possible and that creativity is contagious and so is compassion. And I suppose my challenge is to encourage every friend, anybody that I know with a heart or a pulse or heartbeat to take on the challenge of doing the Assist* course, or the safeTALK* course. Because together we can save lives and it could be a family member, it could be your lover, your husband, your wife, your partner, your child, your best friend. We just don’t know.
* links at end
Yours Truly: Noelle McAlinden. Noelle McAlinden. That was just gorgeous. That was just gorgeous. And thank you for that. And by the way, in your words there in that last segment, you will have scratched an itch in several people, I’m quite sure, here in the cafe that will take steps towards what you’ve suggested. So congratulations, the word is spreading and the good work is spreading. You touched on the fact that because of your mother’s diagnosis, you had a focus, you had a timeline, you could say your goodbyes, et cetera. And we’re sorry for your loss in terms of your mother and she appears to have succumbed to a cancer. You mentioned earlier, you lost your dad, you lost your sister through suicide 20 years ago, 21 years ago. And you lost another sister to suicide recently. Would you mind, please?
Noelle McAlinden: Yeah, late February 2016, I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. So I had my surgery and then eight weeks later, and my best friend Dolores was driving me up to Altnagelvin, and we got the phone call that Anita had died. And our sister Anita had been admitted to Craigavon hospital and she had taken her own life in the hospital the next day. So that was really tough. And it highlighted to me the importance of, within the context of the health service resources aren’t always there. Our sister was allegedly to be supervised, allegedly to be 24/7 observation. My brother-in-law and my sisters and my family were with her that evening before. And it’s just tragic. It’s just tragic that we thought she was safe. So that’s given us the fire in our bellies as family to continue.
And every life is precious. And we have been, two years later, a really detailed, obviously, inquest. And I can understand why those have to be delayed because they’re really, really heart-wrenching things to go through. And for my family, it was like being re-traumatized. And I had been on a retreat with Tony Humphreys and it was a brilliant way of grounding me for what was yet to come. So I was able to support my family as the eldest in the family and the mother hen, that would be my nickname. And our sister, Geraldine, who is a solicitor and actress and filmmaker, she guided us professionally through the jargon, through all of the horrendous landscape that really rocks you. And she stood her ground, she was amazing at challenging the Health Trust. And we collectively as a family, have, we hope, put in another request to help change the system. And one of the things the coroner said that if Anita can, as a professional, as a loving wife, clearly loved by her family, in the health system and in the hospital can die like this, what hope do the rest of us have?
Yours Truly: Noelle. Noelle. Noelle. Noelle. I was watching the faces in the cafe and I felt for you, I felt you got emotional, but I felt the right thing to do was to let you work through it. So I hope that was the right call. Well, thank you for sharing and thank you for going there. And our condolences to you and your family, the mother hen, loved that description. Condolences to you and your family and may Roisin and Anita and your mam and dad, may they rest in peace. Tragic and all as it is, tragic and all as it is, you and your family are continuing to take the lessons or perhaps find the lessons within to make sure that it happens less and less and less into the future. So you’ve got our full support and our admiration and our condolences all in one.
We’ve got this lovely cohort of regulars that pop in every single day. I won’t even start mentioning names because I’ll miss somebody. So we’ve got this lovely cohort. We know once we throw up the shutters every day, a certain group will arrive in and it’s wonderful. The difference each day is the extra people that come along because of our guests and delighted to let you know Noelle that there’s a huge amount of love out there for you, because the cafe has filled up beautifully this morning with people that we haven’t met before. You’re all very welcome, lovely to have your here. But they’ve come for you and for your story and we are so glad that you’ve come in to tell your story today. So thank you, Noelle. Absolutely.
Noelle McAlinden: Thank you. Thank you.
Yours Truly: Listen. We’re going to go to Q&A from the floor, if that’s okay with you, or comment from the floor. I’m quite sure there will be some rich comment coming through. And before we do Noelle, do you mind me asking what is Noelle McAlinden taking with her post-COVID? What have you learned in COVID that you’re not letting go of, please?
Noelle McAlinden: I suppose self-compassion and compassion for others. And that we can paint our own canvas and the colors we choose are up to us. But when you muddy the water, you need to clear water, to clear space. And actually this has been like a retreat for me in a way, that I’m not sure if I want to come out of it completely. There’s an element of self-isolation, which artists thrive in. But I think that the power of connection and for me as a family, it’s very important, the connection. For us, we’ve been sharing, Zoom calls. I mean, we’ve prayed together by Zoom. Particularly on our sister’s anniversaries. We laugh a lot and we have a great connection. And I think family in the wider sense.
Watch the full interview here: https://youtu.be/5jR_iwGiwVo
Connect with Noelle here: https://www.facebook.com/noelle.mcalinden.5
Check out the ASSIST Program here: https://oasiscentre.ie/workshop-event/asist-applied-suicide-intervention-skills-training/
Check out The safeTALK course here: https://www.hse.ie/eng/services/list/4/mental-health-services/nosp/training/training.html
Come back next week for another installment of “We were there when…” from a guest who had Coffee with Colm on The Coffee at Eleven Show, brought to you by WIG-WAM – Business Coaching