12 Aug 2022

Mental health: 'Think about the effect it will have on your family first, then reach out for help'-man speaks out a year on from his brothers death

Michael McGinley 1

The brother of man whose body was recovered from the Foyle after an eight week search has pleaded with those suffering from mental health issues to speak out before it’s too late.

Michael McGinley (27) was last seen by his family on January 21, 2018. His remains were recovered from the river on March 23.

Now, on the first anniversary of his death, his brother Sam McGinley says that mental health service provision in the city needs to be invested in much more.

Speaking to the Derry News Sam said: “Firstly, a year later, the family just wanted to thank all the people who came out and helped us search for Michael. But, also we want to say that he has a legacy and that his death won’t have been in vain if it lets other people know there is help out there.”

The passing of Michael McGinley was the third death to affect the family inside just three years.

"We lost mum and dad the year before Michael. That's what's hard for us, that we no longer have them there to turn to. The last year has been horrible, but the thing is is that it has made or family closer. The wider family has become a lot tighter because were all out searching for Michael. We are thankful for that."

Recalling the search for his brother last year, Sam McGinley added: "It lasted eight weeks and two days. It was one of the longest searches that has taken place. I remember that the weather was terrible at the time-it was freezing.

"I also remember walking the banks, looking into the river and thinking my brother could be just there. We come from Gobnascale, above the Foyle and I looked down at the water at night thinking he's in there.

"At the beginning we didn't have a lot of help to search. We went to the spot where he went in and wondered if he was trapped there. But, we had no intentions of giving up even though it was terrible."

Sam also said that it was the death of his parents that sent his brother into a deep depression.

"Dad died from cancer in April, 2015 so we were prepared in a way for that. But, mum passed away in August, 2015 from complications after a chest infection. She was a young woman of just 47. Michael's mental health went after that.

"I also want people to realise that there are many reasons for people's mental health to suffer. When you hear of a death like Michael's in Derry there is an automatic assumption that it was because of addiction. Michael didn't take drugs.

"Shortly before he died Michael had said he 'wouldn't be here in a week'. I believe those comments shouldn't have been taken that lightly by doctors. It turned out that it wasn't a throw away comment.

"I think there's an over reliance on handing out prescription medication for depression. People need proper counselling services. Pills are not the only answer.

"I've suffered from depression myself when I was younger and ended up going down the road of being addicted to medication. It wasn't until I went into rehabilitation four years ago that counselling helped me a lot more than tablets ever did."

Sam McGinley is also convinced that the stigma of mental health difficulties can only be broken by sufferers reaching out for help.

"What I always say is that often here you never see family or friends until something happens. People say to you to contact them if you need anything. But, you never do it. I would never ring anyone and say I was going through a hard time. What I'm saying now is that you should ring someone regardless of what's happening and tell them you're going through a hard time.

"Don't be afraid to speak out. And, if you think someone else is suffering them ring them. If you can't get them on the phone then call down and see them.

"I'm speaking out a year after Michael's death because if someone needs a little push to get help they need to know it's there. If I can help just one person through this then I will."

One anniversary memoriam placed for Michael McGinley in today's edition simply says: "My godson passed away on 21/1/18 and we recovered him as a family with the help of strangers on 23/1/18. A wise woman once told me 'everyday people have a fear of dying', but on that day Michael had a fear of living. And, no truer words comfort me. He is finally with his parents. Love Pamela, Diarmuid and Charlene and weans."

Sam McGinley says his overarching memory of this time last year remains the day when Michael was finally found after two excruciating months.

"When we found him me, my two sisters and my aunt went to identify him. He'd been in the water for so long. He was on a stretcher covered up. The police had taken pictures of him-we identified him like that. We never actually saw him but we got to touch him and say goodbye.

"I don't want anyone else to see what happens. It's the hardest thing ever and it doesn't leave your mind. What I would say to anyone, is that if you're thinking about it, think about the effect it will have on your family first, then reach out for help."

  CAPTION: The late Michael McGinley pictured with his aunt Pamela.

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