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!