We may wish to ignore suicide, but that won’t make it go away
Prevention officer estimates that two people take their lives every day in Ireland
But how precisely is that supposed to happen?
What specifically are we waiting for?
Is there a belief that an upturn in the economic fortunes of the country will do the trick?
If so, it is sadly misplaced.
Some of the highest recorded suicide rates in Ireland were during the years when the country was at its most prosperous. There are personal and sometimes localised factors behind each suicide, but there might also be a common thread linking most of them. Is there something (or a number of things) particular to our modern age that is driving increasing numbers of people over the edge? Something that can be ameliorated? We will never know the answer if we don’t make a deliberate and sustained effort to find out.
There is, of course, a hangover from previously unsympathetic religious attitudes to suicide to contend with. But society (and in many respects the churches themselves) has left other outdated religious beliefs behind. Surely we are capable of doing the same in relation to suicide. Although, it must be said, before we can begin to de-stigmatise suicide we must learn to accept mental illness as a naturally occurring ailment from which none of us are completely immune.
Feelings of failure
It is a sad truth that bereaved families are among the people least likely to publicly acknowledge that a loved one has died by his or her own hand. This is wholly understandable. It is not difficult to imagine the mental torture that some family members must go through. Their irrational feelings of ineptitude, failure and guilt; wondering how the “warning signs” that seem so obvious in hindsight could have been missed.
Blind to the fact that even if such signs ever did exist, in most cases they would never have led a reasonable person to suspect that suicide was imminent. For many a family, at least at the beginning, to ask them to be open and forthright about the suicide of a loved one is like asking them to admit to a fundamental failure. That is too much to expect.
But for the rest of us, there are no excuses for ignoring the steadily increasing suicide rate in Ireland. This should be of major concern to all of us, and be treated as such.