Eleven o'clock on Thursday morning and I'm on my fourth cup of tea.
My mobile rings and seeing from the caller ID that it's an old mate, I answer with an informal "Yup!"
"Leo, are you sitting down?" comes the reply. "It's *******. He was found dead this morning."
"What? Oh cr*p. Was it a heart attack?" was my immediate reaction. Natural question for a bloke of my age to ask when a contemporary dies suddenly.
"No idea. I'll give you a bell as soon as I get the full picture." comes the reply.
The day passes, I tell my wife the sad news and we speculate on why a seemingly fit guy has left the word so suddenly. We both reckon it'll turn out to be his heart.
In a way it was.
Ten thirty that night the phone rings. I look at the screen and see that its my pal from earlier. "Any news?" The answer to my question shakes me. "Yeah. It was a financial"
The abbreviated term for a suicide where financial woes have been a major contributing factor, if not the sole reason, for the deceased's tragic actions.
The third 'financial' I've heard of this year.
The chap who died was someone I'd worked with for a couple of years. We had our coffee breaks and lunches together 5 days a week for that period. He was a great character.
There are hundreds of suicides a year in Ireland and the UK. The most recent official statistics I can find are a couple of years old.
In 2010 a total of 486 people committed suicide in Ireland. 386 male and 100 female. (source)
In 2010 a total of 5,608 people committed suicide in the UK. 4,231 male and 1377 female. (source)
That's at least one suicide in Ireland and fifteen in the UK every day in 2010.
One heck of a lot of heartbreak and heartache.
A lot of empty chairs.
A lot of parents who've lost a child.
A lot of widows and widowers.
A lot of children with a Dad or Mum shaped hole in their hearts.
There's no way of knowing for sure exactly how many suicides are due in some part to money problems but reports (one from NY Times here) suggest that the numbers are increasing.
I've read the stories and wondered "What are the governments doing about this. Where are the churches in this situation?"
What I should have been asking is "What am I doing about this? How can I help? What can I do?"
We as individuals need to be on the lookout for those in need of support. We need to be proactive and ask those we're concerned about "Are you sure you're ok?"
We can't sit back tut - tutting and sighing and saying "Something needs to be done."
We need to get up off our backsides and actually do something ourselves.
A couple of years ago, after attending the funeral of a suicide victim, a friend and I were having a cup of coffee together. He turned to me and said: "I just don't get it. I don't understand that mindset where someone wants to kill themselves."
He came to understand it though.
He was the 'financial' who swallowed a bottle of pills a few nights ago.
If you suspect that someone you know is struggling please, please,
extend the hand of friendship.
It's better to be rebuffed and know you've tried than not to have tried at all.
If you are one of those who are struggling right now then please, I implore you, ask for help.
Talk to someone.
Don't be embarrassed to ask for help.
Don't give up.