Suicide. Yes that’s right, suicide. Let’s talk about it.

This is a post that’s been brewing within me for a long time. A series of recent events has brought it to the fore once again & this time I need to get it out of my system.

Suicide. No greater taboo exists in Ireland in my opinion. Every year hundreds of people die by suicide in Ireland. In 2007 (latest available figures from the National Office for Suicide Prevention) 460 people took their own lives in Ireland & Ireland had the 5th highest suicide rate for people between 15 & 24 in Europe.

Statistics are easy to list, to hear & forget about. The reality is most of us sadly know of at least one person, either in our families, communities or circle of friends who has taken their own life. In the past 10 days alone I’ve encountered 2 cases – while they weren’t personal friends or even acquaintances, it was still in my life & I was aware of it. While at home in Clare for Easter, a person in their late 50s took their own life. On Friday, my flatmate went to the funeral of a 13 year old girl who had also taken her own life. These incidents coupled with a conversation that happened to dredge up my own personal experience of suicide has led me to finally discussing this more publicly, which is something I strongly believe needs to happen desperately in Ireland.

Almost 2 years ago I lost a first cousin to suicide. He was a talented furniture designer with a thriving business, a wife and a wonderfully close family of 4 sisters, a mother & a father. I remember exactly where I was when I got the news. I was waiting on an Indian takeaway I was treating myself to having just had an interview with X Communications and been offered a job I had dreamed of. A major high to a major low in 10 seconds flat. The shock was unbelievable. As the cliche goes, he was the last person on earth I’d have expected to go down that road. The journey home to Clare for the funeral felt like an eternity so great was my dread of what I was to face. I’ll never forget it for the rest of my life & it haunts me from time to time since – the faces, the shock, the tears, the sobbing. It was the first and only time I’ve seen my dad cry. And he wasn’t the only tough-skinned grown man who had to leave the house to gasp for air amidst the overwhelming emotion.

Regardless of reasoning given by victims of suicide, one thing is absolutely clear in my mind – it’s almost impossible for someone who is contemplating suicide to reach out for help in Ireland when such a huge stigma is still attached to it. I remember at the time of my cousins’ untimely death it was referred to as ‘the tragedy’ by various people and they never once dared to mention the word suicide, least of all get into any sort of discussion about it.

Spending on healthcare in Ireland in general is being hit by the budget cuts, day-to-day mental health services falling foul under the wider umbrella. Charities such as Aware, 3 Ts and are all feeling the pinch as our own purse strings have had to tighten also on account of our awful economic situation. While all of these organisations (and many more besides) do wonderful work supporting people who often simply need to talk to someone about our problems, I think the real solution will emerge from removing the stigma surrounding suicide. We need to start talking about it or at the very least stop being afraid to talk about it. Even if it’s not something affecting you directly or something that’s on your mind, if it crops up (like id did for me this past week) well then don’t rush to change the subject or brush it under the carpet. Talk about it. Get a discussion going & let’s get rid of this fear, this awful taboo & see what a difference we might make. When it came up in conversation with a friend last week I almost shut down completely as I was embarassed to talk about it, partly because I’m rubbish at talking about anything emotional anyway but partly due to it being so taboo and such a touchy subject. But I eventually openened up and felt far better for it afterwards. Looking back now I feel like an idiot for being embarassed about it.

If I’ve upset or confused or touched a nerve with anyone by writing this well feel free to leave a comment, email me or come find me and we’ll have a coffee or a pint, I’m more than happy to talk :)

6 thoughts on “Suicide. Yes that’s right, suicide. Let’s talk about it.”

  1. The mental health service in Ireland is a joke. The John of Gods have been overdosing my mum with medication for about 30 years now. She’s a total wreck. And it’s all done her more harm than good. That scene out of reqieum for a dream where the friends visit the mother at the end. That’s my mum at the moment. She got Electric Shock Treatment back in the day too.

    I’ve seen bright young people with mental health problems going through the system too – and ending up as monged out institutionalised zombies. I’ve seen a rare few go though the system and come out the other side, and getting on with their lives without any medication, me included.

    I think there’s less of a stigma these days but just not enough choices, the alternative to suicide doesn’t seem much better. Monged out on drugs. Spending all day sitting in a room full of other monged out zombies. And that’s a big problem.

    I’m painting an extreme picture here. Of course there are milder cases and milder treatments but the mental health professionals are just winging it from what I’ve seen. Not entirely sure what they’re doing or how to do it.

    They have so far to go before mental health is tackled properly and successfully.

    Yes – very raw nerve.

  2. @John That’s a powerful story, sorry to hear about your mums’ troubles. You’re right about drugs doing more harm than good – I’ve never been a fan of pills in any way shape or form. In many ways it seems to be an easy ‘solution’ to such problems.

    The state of the mental health service in Ireland must be appalling if you consider the system through which the ‘professionals’ such as nurses go through to become qualified to work with people with mental illness. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not painting them all with the same brush but I have first hand experience of seeing people I was in school with take the CAO offer for psychiatric or disability nursing as it was the only thing they got offered & they would never be nursing material in my experience.

    It’s a huge area that needs debate & reform, where the hell do you start?

  3. love your article i am doing research on inpatient suicide at the moment and discovering a lot o stigma within the professions

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