Suicide and bereavement

 

Sir, – In his article “In a Word” (September 14th), Patsy McGarry fails to convey empathy for people who have died by suicide or for those who have been bereaved.

Since the decriminalisation of suicide in 1993, Ireland has come a long way in understanding this multifaceted issue. We have become more compassionate and person-centred in our approaches to policymaking, public messaging and service provision.

Discussions around suicide are very important, but they are best done in a way that informs, educates and incorporates the voices of those most affected.

Policy and practice must be informed by evidence and Connecting for Life, Ireland’s National Strategy to Reduce Suicide 2015-2020, is grounded in national and international evidence and best practice – an evidence base which continues to grow and develop across the world.

The author’s simplistic view of suicide as a “thoughtless and selfish act that rarely takes into account the effect on others” does nothing to assist citizens’ understanding of, and attitudes to, those who experience severe mental health difficulties or crises.

Ultimately, we must ensure people who are at risk of suicide reach out and seek assistance, especially during a crisis.

Unfortunately, the chastising, angry and unsympathetic tone of the article only further invokes the stigma and shame that prevent people from doing exactly that. – Yours, etc,

Dr PHILIP DODD,

Consultant Psychiatrist, Clinical Professorand Clinical Adviser,HSE National Office for Suicide Prevention,

Palmerstown,

Dublin 20.

Sir, – Patsy McGarry writes of having felt overwhelming anger after witnessing the grief of those bereaved by suicide at a ceremony in Maynooth some years ago. He directed his anger at those who died by suicide, an act which he described as “deeply thoughtless and selfish”.

Having lost a very beloved close family member to suicide in July 2018, I felt utter fury at reading his words.

My beloved family member was not thoughtless or selfish. She had battled clinical depression for 20 years, and those of us left behind feel no anger towards her. Instead we feel compassion for what she suffered, and we are grateful that for those 20 years she did battle to stay alive so that we were not deprived of her wonderful character much sooner. She simply could not fight that battle any more.

She was a highly functioning member of society, held down a very challenging job and was a wonderful mother to her teenage daughter. Her daughter feels no anger towards her mother.

Patsy McGarry suggests that nowadays the emphasis around death by suicide “can seem to border on celebration of a type of martyrdom”. I can assure your columnist that my family do not celebrate the death of our family member as any type of martyrdom. We mourn her loss each and every day, deeply and profoundly.

We do not consider her a heroine for doing what she did, but we will never dismiss her suicide as a “thoughtless act”.

In fact, I consider her a heroine for having survived a 20-year battle with clinical depression before finally succumbing.

I would respectfully suggest that Patsy McGarry should have chosen his words much more carefully in writing his piece and thought more about the impact of those words on those bereaved by suicide.

After all, he indicated from the outset that his anger was as a result of witnessing the grief of those so bereaved. – Yours, etc,

CLARE McNAMARA,

Balbriggan,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – Patsy McGarry writes: “But someone, somewhere must address the appalling aftermath of suicide.”

These few words reflect those said by so many people too often ashamed or even afraid to say how they feel in the aftermath of the suicide of a loved one.

Acknowledging this fact would lead to much-needed discussion on the topic. This could only be helpful to the many people grieving in silence, and constantly asking themselves, why!– Yours, etc,

ALICE LEAHY,

Director of Services,

Alice Leahy Trust,

Dublin 8.