News

Paulie O’Byrne returns to Woodstock to share his story with the Youth Suicide Prevention Group Monday

By Heather Rivers, Woodstock Sentinel-Review

Paulie O'Byrne, creator of the I'm 1 in 5 movement, spoke to local youth in Woodstock Monday at their weekly Youth Suicide Prevention Group. (HEATHER RIVERS, Sentinel-Review)

Paulie O'Byrne, creator of the I'm 1 in 5 movement, spoke to local youth in Woodstock Monday at their weekly Youth Suicide Prevention Group. (HEATHER RIVERS, Sentinel-Review)

WOODSTOCK - 

There is hope after pain.

No one knows that better than Paulie O’Byrne, a reformed addict who has struggled with mental health issues for 10 years.

“I want Woodstock to know they are not alone and their stories matter,” explained O’Byrne, a motivational speaker and the founder of the I’m 1 in 5 movement.

O’Byrne, 31, said he has finally figured out that there can be a light at the end of the tunnel.

It’s a happy ending he wants local youth to learn from.

“I am here to give a little bit of hope to a community that has felt hopeless over the last six months with the suicide epidemic,” he said. “I can bring my own lived experience with my own mental illnesses and suicide attempts — that there is hope after pain.”

O’Byrne’s troubles began 10 years ago after he was sexually assault by the president of the minor hockey association in Delhi.

“That changed me forever,” he said. “I was trying to escape this pain. I was trying to shut off nightmares and to get some sleep.”

The day after the assault, O’Byrne began self-harming by burning his skin with boiling water. He soon turned to drinking alcohol daily and then crystal meth. Then he tried to take his own life, several times.

After seven treatment programs and six detox centres, today O’Byrne is three years sober.

“I found out I’ve got to live sober,” he explained. “There is help out there — I’m not alone. I have got to keep using resources out there.”

O’Byrne said the key to his recovery is understanding that he has support from multiple resources, including his friends and family.

“I’m not weak, I’m not broken,” he said. “I’m just Paulie, and I have to live with this stuff.”

Dana Chapple, founder of the Youth Suicide Prevention Group, said the group meets every Monday at 3 p.m.

Currently they gather at Southside Park, but are looking for a permanent indoor place to meet over the fall and winter months.

“The goal is provide a safe place for the youth,” she said.

For more information about O’Byrne, visit www.im1in5.com.

Hrivers@postmedia.com