Monday, July 16, 2007

Suicide is painless?

Do you remember the theme tune for MASH? Suicide is painless, I remember a ten year old me being lectured by my mum for singing it...lecture involved the wooden spoon in those days! I've yet to be directly affected by suicide, many of my friends have had their lives touched by it, it's something we still look upon with shame in Ireland and there definitely is still a stigma there, they may bury the victims of suicide in the graveyards now but the families are often ostracised and they carry a burden of shame.

Yesterday one of my elderly neighbours caught me for a chat, she's a lovely woman, in her 70's and God knows she's had a horrific life. We were chatting away about our families and she went very quiet and said she was at her daughters inquest during the week, I hadn't realised there had been any need for an inquest into her daughters death, as I thought she was very ill in hospital. Turns out she was very ill in hospital, but as is the way because it was St John of Gods, and the illness didn't have a physical manifestation, there was a shame about the nature of her death (and life i suppose). Her mum got really upset, as I said this woman had a hard life and has the general attitude of a cheerful tough old survivor, so when she got upset I immediately gave her a hug (mummy mode I suppose) she related the last 24 hours of her daughters life as if she was questioning her self (again) could she have done things differently?It was heart breaking, not only has she to mourn the loss of her daughter (who was only 49) but she has to mourn privately, because of her fear of being judged. She also can't talk about her daughter's life in a positive way, because her life was hard and had it's lows. When I left her yesterday I felt so upset, for this family and the pain they are going through.

We aren't doctors and when someone we love dies from a stroke or a heart attack or cancer, we don't beat ourselves up over the fact that we couldn't "save" them, we mourn, but the families of the victims of suicide have this added burden of feeling like they should have, could have helped. We all are aware of the reasons suicide among Irish people (esp young men) is so high in Ireland. Maybe the culture of shame is a contributing factor, I have suffered low periods at times during my life, and I've know many of those I care about have experienced them too, each of us were lucky we had people who cared about us enough to listen and help, and we did get help. But sometimes the shame or fear of being judged can stop people getting help.

We are so repressed as a race, physical contact is reserved for parents and their kids, lovers and drunk people. I look at the continental students walking with their arms around each other, holding hands, hugging, the guys and the girls. The Irish teenagers are only like that after several pints! If we feel self conscious being close to people we care about then how can we feel comfortable saying I have dark thoughts, or it seems like such an effort to get up in the morning or I'm worried about my drinking or whatever?

I don't really know where I'm going with this? I suppose I looked at my kids after talking to my neighbour I'm wondering how I can help my kids live happy and fulfilled lives, in forty years time not to be mourning a life half lived!


  1. This is an incredibly moving story well told Midge. As those here who've known me for years will verify I've had my fair share of dark thoughts and have long since wished that we were more open as a people with feelings, closeness.

    Some of those here were around to prop me up as I hope I could do for them in the same circumstance.

    Love this post.

  2. Am lucky not to have been directly affected by this either Midge. Can only imagine the living nightmare it must be for people who have. Unfortunately, I seems to me that in many cases there is not much that friends or family could have done to help/change the outcome. It must be terrible for people affected by suicide to have to greive for their lost ones, whilst wondering if they shoulder the blame and also dealing with the inevitable anger they must feel at some point towards the victim.

  3. Its funny how reading this post, it brought back memories of something I blank from my mind. I aint gonna go into it and this may end up like a riddle, but I was very close to what your neighbour is going through right now.

    For the life of me I dunno how many years ago or what month it happened, I just have one memory of rushing down a motorway after receiving a call.

    The real pain for all involved was that no one saw it coming.

    It was touch and go for a few days and I remember the feelings your neighbour's having, rushing through my mind.

    I personally think stress had so much to do with it, working ridiculous hours, no social life, being down in the back end of no where without family, all contributed. Its an illness that some people have that brings suicide attempts on, but at the end of the day, I have stresses in my life too and would never think of doing something (I hate to say this) so selfish, but this is the sort of live that we live now, we just need to get on with it, deal with it, and hopefully one day all these stresses will disappear making it easier for our little ones.

    Sorry for ranting just brought back really weird memories.

  4. Sorry guys, proably shouldn't have written the post, it was just playing on my mind a lot today, sometimes when I write stuff down I can let it go. Hope I didn't upset anyone.
    I agree stress is a huge problem today, but how do you slow down and smell the roses, maybe have enough time to talk to each other a bit more.
    Personally I think the blogging thing is actually a great way to talk in a secure safe way, without anyone knowing who you are, if that's what you want.

  5. A friend's friend's father just hanged himself this week.

    To get through your life to middle age and then still feel it's your only outlet - it is so terribly sad. And more people are dying from suicide than on our crazy roads... we should all be thinking about it, especially as it's a crisis still so largely ignored by the government.

  6. The victims and their families shoudnt have a stigma attached to them. I think its just something most of us not effected by it dont want to deal with it. Its not our problem. But it is, its so sad to think someone has gotten so low and feels so worthless that they feel they have no were else to turn but to kill themself. We all have troubles and hardships but most of us can deal with them. Watch out for a friend who is down depressed or who just needs a hug. It costs nothing and makes you feel good also it may be the start of a down hill spiral and in the long run you may just save a life by giving up a little time.

  7. No MW I was not upset at all by this post, in fact I found it really nice seeing someone else write exactly and I mean exactly what I and others felt. Also if you had not written it the stigma would remain, wouldn't it.

    I think this one SL deserves to go in the vault for future readers.

  8. ok, glad i didn't upset you Shan, and it is weird that we feel so strongly about not talking about it. It's like Macbeth, don't say it. Anyway I'm sure my next post will be about Seaame street or the huge amount of food for the freezer for the family while I'm awat:-)