In preparing this week’s column I’ve done a lot of research. I have been looking for answers. The recent death of a friend to suicide has prompted me to write what follows. Death by suicide is all too common nowadays. As with any death by suicide there are more questions than answers. The main question is ‘why’? We can speculate. By our very nature as intelligent human beings we try to rationalise. Death by suicide leaves family and friends with many emotions such as guilt, sorrow, anger, fear, loneliness and despair. There obviously comes a point in a person where something drastically goes wrong with one’s mental processes. Many causative factors have been attributed to this; depression, drug abuse, alcohol abuse etc. Death by suicide is much different than one caused by an accident, terminal illness or by old age where that person has lived a full life and died of natural causes. Here we must ask the question ‘What is the meaning of life’? To answer this question we must ask ‘where did we come from’ and ‘where are we going’? These answers are more readily available than the “why” question in relation to suicide. Prevention is obviously the way to tackle the issue of suicide. I do not have the answers nor do I propose any solutions. I basically would like to outline what I believe can help us adopt a different approach to living our lives and open your eyes to the type of world we are living in today.
Most people who read this column know that I am a former inter-county footballer. From this you will have formed opinions and made judgements. I should know what I’m writing about when I write on the topic of sport and namely Gaelic football. The disciplined life of an inter-county player has also got its disadvantages. I’ve been to hell and back a few times since my career ended. I believe that I am well qualified to write about life at the age of 53. Some time ago I shared my story about my own depression and suicidal thoughts. It is only in latter years that I have lived and continue to live what most people would term a “normal” life. There was one aspect of my life that I ignored which I now realise is so very important. When I was a child growing up like many of my generation my parents forced me to go to mass. The local parish priest visited our primary school regularly and scared the living daylights out of us about the devil.
In my teenage years, I rebelled and went to mass only occasionally. It didn’t take a massive life changing event to get me back on the right path 25 years or so later. I went on a ‘holiday’ to Medjugorje at the request rather the bequest of my wife. I went to confessions for the first time in seventeen years. The next time I went it was a pilgrimage and has been ever since.
It is not my intention to give a lesson on the Catechesis or to evangelise you. You see, once religion or God is brought up in an article like this or in conversation we tend to be very cynical because it’s not ‘cool’. I get plenty of stick but I’m well able to handle it and I don’t mind in the slightest. But please read on. I read a book (twice) last year entitled ‘Rediscovering Catholicism’ by Matthew Kelly. Much of what follows is inspired by this book and some of it is directly quoted from the book. We all yearn for happiness just like a desert yearns for rain. We strive for happiness through pleasure, power, and materialism and often do it through the path of least resistance. It doesn’t last though. It is as though we are chasing shadows. Our modern quest for happiness is governed by greed, lust, gluttony, selfishness, laziness, deception and exploitation. There are four aspects of the human person – physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual. Let’s ponder a few questions. Who created us? Who designed us? Who gave us life and who gave us moral laws? Creation demands a creator, design demands a designer, life demands a life-giver and laws demand a law-giver. Herein lays the answer to feed your craving for spirituality. We are enslaved in modern living by different whims, cravings, addictions and attachments. Our desire for happiness is part of the human condition and it will not go away.
Death by suicide is tragic. Currently, it is receiving much attention in the medical profession. Interestingly, I recently read an article in the Sunday Independent, August 3rd 2014, ‘Can religion reduce the risk of death by suicide?’ It is a short but interesting piece. A study group in a university in Virginia, U.S.A. carried out a survey. And I quote, “They found that over this time period, and controlling for variables known to be related to suicide, those who attended religious services at least 24 times each year were at a 67pc lower risk of suicide than those who did not” It further adds “But this study illustrates that religious observance is a legitimate area for examination in psychiatry, just as are substance misuse, relationships and life stressors”.
Keep the faith!