Suicide Tragedies

 It has been said that there are few families in this country who have not been affected to some extent by suicide, whether it be close relatives, distant relatives, a neighbour or friend of a deceased person who has taken his or her own life in such tragic circumstances. We all have had recourse to this in our time, in my own case a near relation in Knocknagoshel parish some years ago. There seems to be no overall cause that drives a person to such an unfortunate action but we can only surmise that those who take their own lives are very disturbed and traumatised and can see no rational way of getting out of their predicament. That is the sad part of it all that while some people who commit suicide appear perfectly normal up to the time of their tragic deaths and might have benefited had they discussed their worries with relatives, friends and professionals who may have been able to help them overcome their fears or whatever may be bothering them. There are others of course who may be suffering from chronic ill health and depression who would be more likely to attempt suicide and of course such people require all possible help and treatment as well as constant supervision.

But as already stated there is  no simple or common reason why some decide to take their own lives, each case is different and unique to the person who attempts or succumbs in inflicting self-harm upon themselves. But this stated there are some very well known facts which could lead to suicide such as financial problems which are very much in the forefront in these times of depression, abusive behaviour in the home or elsewhere, alcohol and drug problems, troublesome family members or difficult neighbours, victims of vandalism, robberies and anti-social behaviour, unfair and discriminating treatment by the authorities in different matters against certain people, all such things lead to anxiety and uncertainty and possibly trigger off thoughts of self-harm in people of a more sensitive personality.

Last week my fellow correspondent Tom Aherne, Carrigkerry, mentioned in his column that while he agreed with Garda Vetting for all people coming into the workforce he also mentioned that Garda vetting for participants for Community Employment Schemes is a joke at present due to the delay in vetting. Tom of course would know more that me on this particular instance in the Carrigkerry area, but in the overall context of this Garda vetting process is if it’s at all needed in most instances. While we all know that a small minority of unsuitable people were in the wrong jobs in the past, it does not mean that those who are now taking up employment or changing their jobs need to be treated in a suspicious manner and be subjected to Garda intervention. No blame to the guards who have been allocated this task by the Government or the relevant Department, but certainly it gives the impression that our country is becoming more and more like a Police State and people’s lives becoming more and more under the control of the Irish authorities, or even more sinister under the iron heel of the European Union.

God knows the Gardaí have enough to do besides having to interrogate everybody who is about to take up employment. That should be the task and responsibility of the potential employer just as it always has been, when in our younger days we took up employment or changed jobs either in this country or when we worked abroad. As already mentioned the Gardaí should be left to do their job of preventing and solving crime.

Having often worked under the supervision of the Gardaí while doing Census for the Central Statistics Office it is only fair to state that the Gardaí were great people to work with, but long before my employment with the CSO compiling the Census and later supervising it had been taken from the Gardaí and passed on to civilian enumerators and supervisors where it remains at the present. But to revert back to the vetting process, in our younger days all that was needed by people going into employment was a reference from a parish priest, a former teacher or some other local dignitary, certainly no vetting in those days. And as far as those working in County Council road works or similar employment the idea of having to get a reference to take up such manual work would certainly be treated as a big joke.

Now it looks as if a person who is about to take up a job footing turf for a week in a bog will need to be vetted. What indeed is the world coming to? As we started off this article with a look at the possible causes of suicide here is a little story (completely hypothetical, or imaginary) which ties up the two strands of this article. “A young girl of 18 whom we will call Sue worked in a shop in the nearby town. She was a quiet, sensitive girl but was a good efficient worker and got on well with her employers and the customers. All was going well until one morning the owner of the shop checked the till and found that a sum of money from the previous day’s takings was missing. She questioned Sue about it who told her that in all honesty she knew nothing about it. However, the missing money was not found and a couple of weeks later the owner informed Sue that her services were no longer required. This worried Sue quite a lot as she felt that she had been branded a thief without any reason on her part. But she decided to get on with life and applied for another job that was being offered in another more distant town. She went through a vetting process and in her honesty mentioned that she felt that she had been a suspect in the theft of some money in the original shop where she had worked. She failed to get the job that she had applied for but she still kept looking for employment again and again and again. But the answer was always the same, sorry the vacancy has been filled. One day her mother came home from work and found Sue unconscious on the sofa, she had taken an overdose of tablets, but they got her quickly to the local hospital where she made a quick and full recovery. A couple of days after Sue had come home from hospital she and her mother had an unexpected visitor, the lady from the shop where Sue had worked. She was all lovey-dovey and tearful apologies for having suspected Sue as she explained how the missing money had been found in a separate compartment in the till a couple of weeks previously, before Sue was admitted to hospital. She told Sue and her mother that she had been too ashamed to call on them until she had heard what happened to Sue. And then of course the inevitable offer to Sue that- “yes dear your job is waiting for you any time that you are ready to come back”. “No thank you, I don’t think so” replied Sue’s mother as she poured her visitor a cup of tea”.

The above little tale can be accepted as typical of either truth or fiction, but it would illustrate my own belief that too much of this vetting lark is of no benefit either to employers or employees. In my own experience of having worked in English psychiatric hospitals for ten years one of the things that was most evident during all this time is that the mind is a very fragile thing in either healthy or sick people and needs to be treated as such. Strangely enough in one of those hospitals there were more suicides and attempted suicides among staff rather that patients there.

One middle aged ward sister who was near retirement age took  an overdose of tablets which killed her. Then again there was a young and very fit married man who was a charge nurse in one of the wards and the captain of one of the soccer teams at the hospital during my time there. By all accounts he had some financial problems which caused a mental breakdown, he was sent to another psychiatric hospital for treatment and while there he killed himself by turning on a gas oven. Another staff nurse whom we knew attempted suicide while home for a weekend. It would not have been al that surprising if a patient in a hospital psychiatric ward had to be put on special observation because of a suicide risk, but qualified professionals attempting or committing suicide would of course be a much more complicated matter and where is the answer to this?

In my opinion instead of the present Garda so-called vetting it would be much safer and more practical to have an assessment of those seeking employment carried out by trained professionals who would have a much better understanding of the complexities of personality traits and none of the delays of  the present system which as Tom Aherne very rightly pointed out in his column last week is preventing people from taking up much needed employment and holding up schemes that are basically designed to help rural communities particularly areas where there is high unemployment.  All this red tape cannot be good for the mind, the body or the soul, so let us see the end of it.


Autumn Weddings

The marriage took place on Saturday at St. Bartholomew’s Church, Athea of Darragh Sweeney, son of late Pat and Anna May Sweeney, Hillside Drive, Athea and Margaret Ahern, daughter of Ned and Etty Ahern, Upper Dirreen. The ceremony with Nuptial Mass was performed by Fr. Patrick Bowen P.P. The reception was held at the Devon Inn Hotel, Templeglantine where an enjoyable time was had by all the guests.  Congratulations and best wishes to the newly married couple for their future happiness.

The marriage took place at Glin Parish Church on Saturday of Patrick Horgan, son of John and Doris, Athea and Lorraine O’Brien, daughter of Tom and Joan, Templeathea. The ceremony with Nuptial Mass was performed by Fr. Michael Cussen P.P. Fedamore (former curate in Athea). The bridesmaids were Yvonne and Tracey O’Brien, sisters of the bride and Una Nolan. Niall Horgan was best man and the groomsmen were Kevin Sheehy and Tim Enright. The reception was held in the Brehon Hotel, Killarney where the families and guests all had an enjoyable time. Congratulations and good wishes to the young couple for their happiness in married life.