Suicide Among Young Men


Sir, - When John Waters (Opinion, February 16th) writing on suicide by men, especially young men, says "that this society seeks to brush this already hidden pain and suffering even further under the carpet", he doesn't seem to understand that suicide is not a disease; it is a death that is caused by a self-inflicted intentional action or behaviour (Silvermann, 1995).

While I believe much can be done to prevent suicide, in a general way, ultimately no individual or organisation can stop a really determined person, male or female, from succeeding in their intention. No one should ever feel guilty for having failed to foresee or prevent a suicide. If you could have stopped the person from dying, you most certainly would have. Although moral responsibility for one's actions, including the decision to kill oneself, may be diminished by a variety of influences, it is never completely taken away.

Last year (January 13th, 1998) John Waters informed us, when writing on the same subject, that "an unappeasable women's lobby" greatly contributed to this "holocaust" of males. This year he contributes another tuppence-worth from his pouch towards understanding and finding a solution to this very tragic and complex problem.

With so much claimed insight and knowledge into the causes of suicide and where the blame really lies for the "males" who succumb, it is surprising to find his name missing from the list of those who made submissions to the National Task Force on Suicide.

Since males resort to more violent methods for killing themselves, it is disappointing that Mr Waters does not examine the connection (if any) between the increase in male suicides and the increase in figures for violent male crimes and the use of weapons in Ireland in the past three decades corresponding to this phenomenon. In the United States there certainly is a connection, according to one of its leading suicidologists.

Dr Herbert Hendin, who is executive director of the American Suicide Foundation and professor of psychiartry at New York Medical College, draws attention to this fact in his book Suicide In America when he writes:

"Suicide and violence toward others show many similarities even when they are not present in the same individual. Hopelessness and desperation are common to both. So are difficulties in dealing with frustration and loss, and in expressing aggression effectively. It is necessary to understand violence in order to fully understand suicide, and necessary to understand suicide in order to fully understand violence. It is as important to see the suicidal intentions that may be hidden by homicide as to see the homicidal intentions that may be concealed by suicide. Suicide can be used to check homicidal impulses that threaten to overwhelm the individual in ways more frightening than death. Suicidal intentions also may unleash and permit a homicide that would otherwise not take place."

Maybe before his next annual report (2000 AD!) John Waters may find time to study the Final Report of the National Task Force on Suicide. It pointed out the importance of the media in the prevention of suicide and parasuicide when it acknowledged "that the positive effects of the media in Ireland cannot and should not be underestimated. In recent years, they have for the most part drawn attention to the problem in a way that has forced society and concerned individuals to make a practical response" [3.3.7].

Practical rather than passionate responses from obviously concerned, compassionate and gifted journalists may also help prevent suicide. - Yours, etc., Rev Peter O'Callaghan,

Inch, Killeagh, Co Cork.