October 4, 2004
Bishops' plea over suicides
The Catholic Church is sending out letters to households throughout Ireland appealing for help in reducing the levels of suicide in the country.
The letter from the Bishops of Ireland says efforts to remove the stigma of suicide from bereaved families have taken away the recognition that it is still "an unthinkable option".
Suicide is the second highest cause of non-disease deaths for young people in Europe, according to the World Health Organisation.
The bishops' letter, entitled Life is for Living, says recent economic success has been accompanied by a weakening of faith and loss of emotional support.
Auxiliary Bishop of Down and Conor Donal McKeown says society needs to look at what can be done to help support people who feel "on the edges".
Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster on Monday, he asked: "How can we create some sort of community that is supportive of people?
"Not condemning those who do take the ultimate step, but how can we create some sort of society that seems to cherish life, that seems to looks for those that are struggling rather than treat them as nuisances?"
The pastoral letter, read out at weekend Masses throughout Ireland, says that recent reports and publications have underlined the extent of the issue in Ireland, which it describes as a "dark cloud" over the country.
In particular, it says, the ratio of young males to females who commit suicide is approximately four to one.
The bishop says the church wants to strike a balance between not condemning people, and creating a culture where there is a love of life.
He says the letters are being sent to houses in the north and south of Ireland, rather than have the message received only by Mass-goers.
"The idea is to go beyond the regular church goers and try to ensure we make a contribution to the welfare of society," he says.
"This is not a particularly Catholic document, as such.
"But it is specifically saying - how can we contribute to what really is a huge wound in our society, where lots of people of all ages, but specifically the younger males, seem to be facing a very despairing future?
"It is a very dangerous world out there for young adults, particularly for young males."