It REALLY makes me angry how mental health is dealt with in Ireland. It is a serious serious problem and everybody who is listened to by the media says “We need to talk more openly about mental health!” and the media happily publishes these contributions, but when it comes to it, they are as useless as everybody else.
On Friday morning, while looking for events and news, I had a quick look at the thejournal.ie website and saw an article entitled “Body of missing teenager located”. A 17 year old girl that went missing on Tuesday was found dead. VERY sad!!
But it doesn’t stop there! If something like that happens, we all want (and need) to know why. Was it an accident or a crime or something else? We WANT to know, because we need to deal with our own feelings about news like that. Many of us are (hopefully) not yet so insensitive that we just ignore it and move on. In addition, the “need to know” is a form of self protection: If it was a crime, maybe I have to be more careful or have to watch out better over my own loved ones. If it was an accident, maybe I can learn something from it as well. Either way, we really shouldn’t ignore the cause of death,
BUT, the media AND the police AND many normal people absolutely want to ignore it if the cause was the unspeakable SUICIDE and it really makes me furious.
The article said “A garda spokesperson told TheJournal.ie that the teenager’s death is being treated as a tragedy.” Does that translate to anything else but suicide? I don’t think so! But why can it not be said? Why is the fact sooo shameful that you can not reveal the S-word?
There was a 17 year old girl with a potentially great future and huge opportunities ahead of her, but sadly she didn’t see the alternatives and nobody in her life was able to show or convince her that there ARE alternatives to ending your life. Whatever stressed her seemingly was so big that she didn’t see any alternatives and didn’t want to endure the pain any longer. Yes, it is a tragedy, but by making it a secret, we will help nobody.
Many people experience that and the suicide rate in Ireland is shockingly high, but unless we talk about it openly, it will get worse.
I would claim that nearly everyone thought about ending his or her life at some stage. Maybe it was as a 10 year old after your parents were telling you off or maybe it was much later after a separation from a partner or after any other significant life event or just because you intermittently go through dark periods in your life where continuing the struggle makes no sense anymore. So it affects us all, either directly or indirectly.
Suicide is a problem solver for everybody who considers it or who carries it out. The big issue is, however, that the majority of problems that we feel and experience could become temporary problems if we approach them with help and support, but suicide is final. Hence the phrase: Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. (A phrase that makes sense when you are not suicidal, but is not very helpful when you don’t see any alternatives.)
We need to talk about all aspects of mental health, including suicide to make sure that everyone understands that it is not a shame to feel so bad that you are considering it. And at the same time to offer help and support.
But why can we not talk about suicide? For starters it is seen by some in society still as a failure. A failure to cope. A failure to deal with the stuff life throws at us. And then there is the stigma caused by the Catholic Church, that says suicide is a sin. And if the parents of someone who died from suicide live in a largely catholic Ireland, they will definitely feel that they should see as their failure but maybe even that their son or daughter did some condemnable act. It is neither! And parents or other family members should never feel guilty in the context of suicide.
But there is also a very odd taboo-isation that comes from a false sense of “Political Correctness”. Many feel that it is discriminating to use some words. That’s rubbish! The word is not offensive, but the meaning might be. You can absolutely say that someone is “black” or “g ay” even if some of us feel very uneasy using these words because we are frightened into a political correctness thinking. “Suicide” is also NOT a forbidden word!
And finally, there is the thinking in some people that if we talk about suicide, we make it “normal” and then give others the idea that it is ok to harm themselves. Nonsense!! You talk about breakins and lots of other crimes for many many years and it hasn’t become the norm either!
Please talk openly about mental health including suicide! Only then you can get others who need your help to understand that you might be someone they can turn to if they are looking for help!