Writers turn page for suicide charity

Thu, Oct 11, 2012, 01:00

BOOKER-WINNING author Anne Enright last night spoke of the widespread aversion to and shame at the subject of suicide.

She was speaking at the launch of an anthology of new short stories by 28 Irish authors in aid of national suicide-prevention charity Console.

Despite suicide and bereavement being the central theme of her 2007 novel The Gathering, she was not asked about either topic during dozens of interviews with journalists, she recalled last night.

Enright realised that there was “such taboo, such aversion, such shame and such privacy about the subject of our relationship to our own deaths . . . and that will has something to do with it”.

In the foreword to the newly published anthology, Silver Threads of Hope, Enright writes about the reaction of others on hearing of a period of depression and suicidal feelings which she had in her 20s.

“I also remember how much and how often I wanted to die – many times a day, and all night,” she writes.

She describes the “pressure to remain silent” about depression and suicidal thoughts in Ireland. Some friends and colleagues “didn’t quite believe” her as she “was the wrong kind of person to suffer from depression”.

“An admission of weakness unsettles people, especially when, as with a suicidal impulse, it feels like a declaration of great strength,” she writes.

She describes the suicidal thoughts as having “many of the qualities of addiction”.

She wanted to die “more often” than she wanted a cigarette and “with a yearning that imitated romance”.

Writing about this time might help someone else in difficulty to see that “you can survive” suicidal feelings and “even though they carry a great weight of inevitability, it is a false weight”, she writes in the foreword

Enright declares that she was “so grateful to be here” when she remembered where she was.

Console founder and chief executive Paul Kelly last night said that Enright was ultimately responsible for the anthology after he approached her a year ago with the idea.

The collection features previously unpublished short stories by 28 Irish writers.

These include Roddy Doyle, Dermot Bolger, Emma Donoghue, Pat McCabe, Colum McCann, Declan Hughes and Claire Kilroy.

Mr Kelly founded the charity, which provides counselling and a 24-hour helpline, after his sister Sharon took her own life at the age of 21.

“The legacy of suicide is the why – why did she do it?” Mr Kelly said last night.

His sister’s passing made him realise that “death through suicide was a more protracted grief, a more complicated grief, because of the element of choice”, he explained.

“A group of our finest writers have joined together to let people who may be in trouble know that they are not alone,” Mr Kelly said at the launch.

The book’s editor, Sinead Gleeson, said that when she asked writers to “hand over a pristine, unpublished short story for free . . . nearly everyone I asked said yes without hesitation”.


Silver Threads of Hope, edited by Sinead Gleeson, is published by New Island Publishing. The recommended retail price is €14.99.