Teac Tom expands its assisted suicide services

Founded from a tragic personal experience, Teac Tom expands its services to those affected by suicide, with many farmers and rural dwellers seeking its support.

The Thomas Hayes Trust CLG was established in February 2014 by Angela Hayes, supported by her family, following the tragic loss of her husband Tommy in 2002 and her son Thomas in 2011, both to suicide.

At this time, Angela was unaware of the suffering in the community by others who had experienced suicide.

Angela and her son Alan were invited to speak on The Late Late Show in January 2014. They shared how their lives and those of their family had been affected by the suicide.

The overwhelming public response to their story showed the need for a community support system for people in crisis, Angela said. The seed was sown and the Thomas Hayes Trust was established.

The aim was to support people in County Kilkenny who had been affected or bereaved by the suicide. In 2015 the doors of Teac Tom opened in the city of Kilkenny.

TeacTom

“The center provides a safe space where people can come if they have mental health issues and need someone to talk to. Here they can talk to a trained volunteer auditor or receive counseling sessions from our trained and accredited team,” Angela said.

“The services are offered free of charge but we ask, if people are able to do so, to make a donation. This allows us to provide the service.

“We believe in a fair deal program where people can give what they feel they can afford, and also value the support they receive at Teac Tom,” Angela said.

Teac Tom offers counseling services to people in need. It runs a 24-hour helpline, run by trained volunteers. Play therapy, group therapy and family engagement support programs are offered. There is also a listening service without an appointment.

Outreach programs are offered to schools, clubs and businesses to raise awareness and provide support. There is also a Mobile Support Unit where six counselors can travel to a community where a suicide has occurred.

Teac Tom does not receive government funding and is entirely dependent on the support of individuals and businesses in the community to continue to provide its services to those in need.

“We hold a number of flagship fundraising events throughout the year, although these have been reduced since the pandemic. We receive donations from individuals and businesses and encourage people to organize fundraisers, which both raise money and raise awareness of Teac Tom,” said Angela.

In numbers
24 advisers offer six to eight weeks of free advice to service users; 80 to 100 hours of advice are provided each week; 600 telephone calls are answered each year by its volunteer on-call auditors.

There has been a 46% increase in the number of teenagers receiving counseling this year, compared to 2020, according to Angela.

“On average, one person signed up for Teac Tom’s services every day in 2021,” she said.

A second location

In 2019, through conversations with families impacted by suicide in County Laois, Angela opened a second Teac Tom Center in Stradbally.

The purpose-built facility has four boardrooms, a children’s garden, and an accessible coffee dock to facilitate walk-in service and a community coffee morning.

The center currently operates Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and by appointment with four counselors working with clients.

Many people from farms and rural areas take advantage of these services, according to Angela.

“We had a farmer from Carlow who rang in tears and was with us within an hour of his call. Farming was fine for him, it was other life issues that were the difficulty,” she said.

“He was very reassured knowing he could just walk in and get help right away.

“Rory, the Clinical Director, and I have provided informational talks to Macra [na Feirme], and other groups in rural areas of the Midlands and South East. I attend fundraising events to provide a personal connection with the families and friends of a loved one who has died by suicide.

“The last tractor race was the ‘Rev for Trev’, where we received a check for €5,500.”

Coming

This kind of fundraising helps keep Teac Tom going, Angela said.

“We are a very low cost organization and the money spent has a huge impact on the community. Our counselors work at discounted rates and trainee counselors work with families,” she said.

“It’s a huge struggle to keep going as keeping up with the growing demand for support is eating away at the money we had accumulated before Covid-19 hit.

“We were hoping to buy a new premises in Kilkenny and would also like to introduce a community garden for continued support.

“We would also like to facilitate rural parts of the country by having Teac Tom – Teac Beag – satellite centers so that people do not have to travel to receive our services,” Angela said.

“The Teac Tom model is very simple and we will participate in a two-year research study which will validate the work we are doing and help us obtain funding. This model can then be replicated in other counties in Ireland.

Richard F. Gandhi