May Rosa Addresses the NI Suicide Epidemic with Poignant Release ‘Ceasefire Baby’

Photograph by Tolu Ogunware. Hair/Makeup by Rebecca Duff.

Content Warning: The following article and featured May Rosa track ‘Ceasefire Baby’ deals with themes of suicide, depression, and PTSD. 

Alt Pop Artist, Actress, Song- writer, and Screenwriter, May Rosa has been making her mark on the Irish music scene since her debut single ‘Dancing in the Debris’ was released in 2017. More recently, Maya has been moved by the ongoing suicide epidemic in Northern Ireland, drawn by harrowing statistics to write a track partially inspired by the article ‘Suicide of The Ceasefire Babies’ by the late Lyra McKee. The The synth-tinged track explores the reasons why such a catastrophic amount of lives have been lost to suicide since the 1998 Ceasefire, addressing the nations trauma, lack of mental health services and funding, unemployment and substance misuse. The song is written from the perspective of a woman who, having lost her husband in the violence of the troubles, goes on to lose her son to suicide, demonstrating a paradox between war and peace in Northern Ireland. All proceeds from the single go towards PIPS, and Aware NI- Defeat Depression.

May Rosa spoke to The Jumble Magazine about ‘Ceasefire Baby’  and some of the data that moved her to write about the topic. 

Ceasefire Baby started as a poem that I wrote in a coffee shop in South West London a couple of years ago. The words came from a place of sadness and anger about the lack of awareness, support and funding for the mental health crisis and suicide epidemic in Northern Ireland. This has affected me, and so many people I know, directly or indirectly, and it was something I always wanted to write about.

I came up with the idea of writing it from the perspective of a woman who lost her husband in The Troubles and her son to suicide, to highlight the paradox between war and peace here. When I put it to music, I didn’t really think about it being a single, as it’s very different to my other songs. It’s also really heavy, dealing with two taboo subjects, and I suppose that made me a bit uncomfortable or nervous. When I started playing it live with my band in London however, I knew I had to release it. It has always elicited such a strong response. People came up to me after my set and asked questions about the situation – they were confused as to why it was so under-publicised. It still blows my mind that even some people in NI don’t even know the extent of the problem. 

We recorded the track remotely over lockdown, with Ryan McGroarty producing, mixing, and mastering and Cheylene Murphy on Keys (Beauty Sleep). It was a seamless process. Those two are just amazing.

My brother and I then produced and directed the video in December. We had been planning it for a long time and it was exactly as envisioned – the DOP George Barnes captured the atmosphere completely. The people involved were far-reaching – from the crew, to the cast, to the owners of the locations. It was humbling that so many believed in this project and gave their time and energy. The most common thing we heard throughout the whole process was ‘Everyone knows someone’, so the support makes sense. 

The reaction to the song and video has been sobering, with many sharing stories and experiences in response. It’s just all so, so sad. Some messages have made me cry, but more than anything I feel angry. Many of us do. 

Northern Ireland deserves so much better than this. 

Northern Ireland has the highest levels of PTSD in the world according to a major International Report by Ulster University, and higher suicide rates than the rest of the UK, yet recent data (2015-2016) shows only 5.5% of the healthcare budget is allocated to mental health services, where as the data for the same yearly period shows that in England the funding allocated to mental health services equates to around 13% of their own healthcare budget. As a result, waiting lists for mental health treatment are currently approximated to be around 24 times the length of England and Wales COMBINED. This lack of funding and support means that more people experiencing mental ill health will have to resort to emergency or crisis services. 

This is an insult to those suffering, and those who have lost friends and family. Whole communities are grieving. I really do hope, that in some small way, Ceasefire Baby, contributes to a change in Northern Ireland’s approach to mental health.

Listen to ‘Ceasefire Baby’ and consider make a contribution to PIPS and AWARENI by buying the track for £1 on Bandcamp.

You can also donate via May Rosa’s Artist Fundraising Pick on Spotify. 

Read more about the data mentioned above and the mental health Crisis in Northern Ireland: 

Suicide of The Ceasefire Babies by Lyra McKee.

Ulster University Research on the Extremely high levels of PTSD in Northern Ireland. 

UK Parliment Publication Adressing Northern Ireland’s funding for Mental Health Services (With Comparisons to England) and how Northern Ireland has the Highest Suicide Rate in the UK. 

‘Making Parity A Reality’ A Review of Mental Health Policies in Northern Ireland

By Professor Siobhan O’ Neill, Professor Deirdre Heenan and Dr Jennifer Betts Supported by Action Mental Health. 

Related Organisations and Charities in Northern Ireland:

PIPS: Public Initiative for the Prevention of Suicide and Self Harm

Aware NI.


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