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Irish pastoral letter aims to reduce suicide

The Church in Ireland recently sent issued a pastoral letter titled Life is for Living, attributing rising levels of suicide to recent economic success that has been accompanied by a weakening of faith and loss of emotional support.

Independent Catholic News reports that the Irish Bishops have expressed regret that 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. Auxiliary Bishop of Down and Conor Donal McKeown said society needs to look at what can be done to help support people who feel "on the edges".

"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?", he asked on BBC Ulster.

The pastoral letter 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.

Bishop McKeown said the church wants to strike a balance between not condemning people, and creating a culture where there is a love of life. He said 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 said. "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."

Ireland: Church issues appeal over rising suicide levels (Independent Catholic News 11/10/04)

Bishops' plea over suicides (BBC Ulster 4/10/04)
Irish bishops express concern over country's rising suicide rate (The Georgia Bulletin/Catholic News Service 5/10/04)
Irish bishops make plea on suicide problem (Catholic World News 4/10/04)
Bishops urge action on 'reality' of suicide (Irish Examiner 4/10/04)
Bishops conference urges greater research into suicide scourge (Irish Times 3/10/04)
Fr Ron Rolheiser OMI: Suicide - The Most Misunderstood Of All Deaths (25/7/04)
NZ schools worried about "text bullying" (CathNews 1/7/04)
Diocese of Down and Conor

12 Oct 2004