Unfortunately, suicide is something that we experience all too often in the Newry & Mourne area and indeed further afield.
These are lives taken from our community and each and every one of them, the loss of each and every one of those precious and valuable lives has a traumatic impact on all of those left behind which can reverberate through generations. I would strongly urge anyone, not merely those feeling suicidal, that is having mental health problems, feeling ‘down’, depressed or despondent to speak to someone about it – now.
Mental health illnesses are much more common than most would believe and the old stigmas are thankfully being rolled back. We are a strong and resilient community, I would call upon people to lean on one another, speak to family, friends, family GP’s, PIPs, or any other suicide or mental health organisation.
There is help out there if we avail of it and if we become supporters and practitioners of it, we can make a positive intervention in many of our people’s lives. The wider impact is all pervasive.
When a person takes their life, it is akin to dropping a pebble into a pool of water, the ripples are felt far and wide. The family, friends, work colleagues, school mates, neighbours and others, feel the pain of the passing. They can also feel the frustration of the apparent helplessness of the community to prevent such tragedy – anger that not enough is being done.
It can, however, have an impact which is perhaps unexpected – a community coming together. People rally around those most affected in the immediate aftermath and, perhaps more importantly, take whatever action they can to ensure that it doesn’t visit anyone else. Those engaging in raising awareness, taking classes, engaging in training and taking part in fundraising initiatives are a constant reminder to those suffering that those around them do care, that their lives do matter, and that they will do all in their power to ensure the necessary resources will be struggled for and secured.
Suicide and mental illness are issues that affect everyone. They span all the classic divides – religion, class, age, gender and race. Whilst some sections of our people tend to suffer more than others, it is not something that anyone can become complacent about. The times that we are in are challenging. We are facing times of austerity the like of which many of us have never witnessed nor experienced.
Since the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998, more people have taken their own lives in the six-counties than were killed during the most recent phase of the war. It’s clear that since we were promised a new society, a society that would prosper, we have deprivation instead. The highest levels of deprivation and child poverty in Europe can be found here in occupied Ireland. This artificial statelet is a failure. Stormont is a failure. We need a new system in place, a socialist system, free from partition, occupation, austerity and outside interference. Thus, it is important, more than ever, that we stand together and demand that which is just for our people, particularly our young.
We must adequately address the symptoms, of course. The awareness raising projects, the training initiatives and the intervention services must be properly resourced. But we must also tackle the causes of despair, which includes not only analysing the individual but also the society in which we exist. Not looking for what is ‘wrong’ with the individual but what is ‘wrong’ with society in which we exist.
That is our challenge as a community.
Stephen Murney is a former Republican Prisoner from Newry and a Saoradh Activist.