A Western Isles branch of a support group specifically aimed at those bereaved by suicide is being launched in Stornoway.
Sarah’s Sanctuary is a branch of Beautiful Inside and Out, a registered charity born out of the tragic suicide of 13-year-old Jenna Moriarty. Her mum Pauline Moriarty wanted to ensure that Jenna could still help others by offering support and counselling to bereaved parents, family and friends who have lost their loved ones to suicide.
Now Lewisman Kenny Macdonald plans to extend their work into the islands, honouring the memory and sharing his enduring love for his own daughter after suffering a heart-breaking loss.
Sarah’s Sanctuary is being set up in memory of Sarah Maree Macdonald, of Aird, Point and Newmarket, who died at the age of 29 in September 2019.
Sarah attended Bayble Primary School and The Nicolson Institute before moving to the mainland with her family in 2011. Most recently she worked as a lifeguard at Inverness leisure centre and had been due to return to Lewis with her family, planning to take up nursing training in Stornoway. But, after struggling with mental health for several years, she lost her battle and ended her own life.
Kenny said: “Sarah was a beautiful young woman with a loving, caring manner and always a kind word for everyone she met. Losing her was the most devastating experience ever for us as a family.
“We came home to Lewis and found that there was a lack of help in bereavement of this kind available on the island. Having experienced mental health issues within the family previously, I had raised funds for Pauline’s charity Beautiful Inside and Out some years ago. I felt it was a very worthy cause, but could never in my worst nightmare have envisaged needing the charity in such circumstances.”
Kenny has joined forces with Pauline and with qualified counsellor Marina Sinclair to create Sarah’s Sanctuary. This will begin as a support group that will meet regularly in Stornoway for those affected by suicide.
The group will be facilitated by Kenny and Marina and offers a confidential, non-judgemental safe place for people to share their experiences and support each other. One-to-one counselling will be funded by the group for anyone requesting it.
Despite the hope that they could begin to use the therapists that already work with Beautiful Inside and Out via digital platforms such as Zoom and Skype, the group’s plans were delayed by the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic.
They now aim to launch in August with a fundraising event which affirms the life of Sarah Maree Macdonald in the most active way.
Kenny said: “Sarah would have been 30 years old on 12 April. To honour her 30 years, myself and Marina plan a 30k triathlon on Saturday 22 August – cycling, running and kayaking around the Stornoway area.
“Our group welcomes those bereaved by suicide to meet and share their experiences in a safe and confidential environment. Support groups can promote health and healing and healing happens when stories are shared in a safe place.
“In memory of Jenna Moriarty and Sarah Maree MacDonald, we are reaching out in the love that they displayed for others throughout their lives. In their memory a place of safety and refuge will be available with no discrimination and no judgement – a sanctuary for any that are in peril.
“The launch of Sarah’s Sanctuary here on the island means people will not have to travel to the mainland to attend a bereavement-by-suicide support group. We can now say there is a place for you to go, there are others who understand what you are going through and will help.”
To support the 30k triathlon fundraiser go to www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Sarahs-Sanctuary.
The picture shows Sarah Maree Macdonald and is used with thanks to Sarah’s family.