Patsy McGarry: In a Word . . .

. . . suicide

Had I the power, I would make it compulsory that anyone contemplating suicide should attend such an event as that at Maynooth six years ago.

Had I the power, I would make it compulsory that anyone contemplating suicide should attend such an event as that at Maynooth six years ago.

 

It would probably be wiser to leave this subject to those further up the page. But someone, somewhere must address the appalling aftermath of suicide. How it haunts the innocent for the remainder of their lives.

I myself am haunted by a memory whenever I hear the word. It’s of a middle-aged couple in Maynooth’s College Chapel six years ago. That was at a ceremony held to remember those who died by suicide.

About 1,000 bereaved people were there. The altar was a shrine to their dead, mostly young men. So many photographs reflecting the wavering flames of candles all around.

Candles were everywhere, each lit by a grieving relative. A middle-aged man was so lost in grief he struggled to light his. For most of the two-hour service he sat, absent, his head bowed low, his hands clasped in front of him. The woman beside him wept discreetly, continuously.

As the ceremony of readings and music took its course, I was swept up by the powerful current of inconsolable grief in that building.

People left behind

But it was not grief I felt. It was anger, at those who had taken their own lives and left such a bottomless chasm in the hearts of people left behind.

Had I the power, I would make it compulsory that anyone contemplating suicide should attend such an event as that at Maynooth six years ago. There have been others, there and across Ireland, where the bereft gather to remember in love those who have caused them such ongoing anguish.

It’s true that great suffering can drive people to take their own lives but it is also a deeply thoughtless and selfish act that rarely takes into account the effect on others.

In the past, emphasis was on the selfishness of such deaths, now it can seem to border on celebration of a type of martyrdom. But it is not martyrdom.

Suicide levels among young men in Ireland are high and now in parts of Dublin gender equality has been achieved in such deaths among young women and men. We should not make heroes of any of them.

Because they are not heroes. They are just troubled young people who would be still among us but for a thoughtless act.

Suicide, from Latin suicidium, from -sui of oneself, and cidium from caedere, to slay.

inaword@irishtimes.com

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