Newsletter Subscribe
Australian Catholics Subscribe

Catholic Teacher Blog: Suicide Prevention Day - September 10

Andrew Hamilton SJ |  09 September 2017

Suicide affects all groups in society. Teachers, doctors, miners, church ministers, and police have all grieved for colleagues who have taken their own lives, and have friends who have survived the suicide of family members. They can put faces to suicide.

But when people kill themselves their personal face is stripped away from them. They come to wear the impersonal mask of what they have done. Who they are is obscured by this one final thing that they have done. They may become things and abstractions, objects of fear and not the subjects of tender memories. Too often, too, the varied faces of family and friends who survive them are also obscured by the mask of suicide.

The mask is fixed in place by the silence that envelops suicide. The initial silence of incomprehension why any person would take their own life; the silence of inner confusion in which grief and sympathy are mingled with anger; the silence that says eloquently that we have no words that fit; the silence of shame that suicide should have insinuated itself into our family, our circle; the silence of guilt that we should have anticipated and prevented this death.

Silence freezes the mask into place. People avoid those who wear it and do not mention it, half because they also lack words but also because they secretly fear it is contagious. As a result, all disappear behind the mask and become strangers to one another. They are not defined by their love for the person who died or by their relationship to one another, but by the mask of suicide, they have come to wear and by the silence that holds them separate from one another.

If you wear a frozen mask you cannot accept nourishment and you starve. The remedy is to melt the silence that freezes on the mask by speaking about the person who died and the circumstances of their death. In this way, you recover become free from fear and rediscover yourself alongside the person who took their life.

Banishing silence and recovering oneself is the goal of the Jesuit Social Services program, Support after Suicide. It encourages people to speak by providing sympathetic and skilled ears and offers a place where people can speak with others who have had the same terrible experience. Conversation gradually thaws the icy mask and recovers the humanity both of the person who died and of those who grieve them. It plants seeds of gratitude, respect, and compassion in place of the toxic weeds of blame and denial.

Anger, guilt, fear, and isolation fester until they are exposed to light. They also feed our terrors and freeze our relationships. They are best dispelled by conversation.

 

Learn more about Jesuit Social Services - Support After Suicide here

 

Topic tags: familylife, healthycommunitylife

Request permissions to reuse this article


Comments

Submitted feedback is moderated. Please read our comments policy. Email is requested for identification purposes only.

Word Count: 0 (please limit to 200)

Similar articles

Catholic Teacher Blog: Stamping out online abuse

Fr Peter Hosking SJ | 23 Oct 2017

Incidents of inappropriate online behaviour by school students continue to be a concern. 
The values of respect, empathy and consent are critical to good relationships online and anywhere else.


Catholic Teacher Blog: Risk & Success

Brendan Nicholls | 12 Oct 2017

'Often the difference between a successful person and a failure is not one’s better abilities or ideas, but the courage that one has to bet on his idea, to take a calculated risk, and to act.' – Maxwell Maltz

 


Catholic Teacher Blog: Social Justice Sunday - September 24

Fr Andrew Hamilton SJ | 25 Sep 2017

If you want to stay happy and healthy you need to draw on the skills of cooks and dieticians. You also need them to stick to their own skills. Ask a dietician for a happy recipe and you may eat miserably. Ask a pastry cook to care for your diet and you may become a cardiac disaster.


Sneaky Jesus Song: You found me

Brendan Nicholls | 14 Sep 2017

A ‘Sneaky Jesus song’ may not be a religious tune, but when you listen to the lyrics it could be mistaken for one.


Catholic Teacher Blog: Child protection, compliance and conversion

John Honner | 07 Sep 2017

Jesus is reported as saying 'unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven'. Did he mean what he said or was he being idealistic? Do his words mean anything for today? I think they do, especially for Christian ministries in the light of the work of the Royal Commission and its likely recommendations for ensuring the safety of children.


Newsletter Subscribe
ACBC social justice