IAUSA Irish Apostolate

An Immigrant's Musings - December 2013



In recent times I have been asked frequently, what is wrong with Irish society and what are the causes of the very high rates of suicide, especially among young men in the 17-35 age bracket?


My reflections come not from a purely psychological approach, though I have studied the issues, but rather from one who has the experience of listening to and, hopefully, having offered some hope to people who suffer over the past thirty years. I also approach this topic as one who lost a close family member to suicide.


The first point I make is this there is no single or simple answer as to why a person will end up dying by suicide. Experts are agreed that there is very often a close connection between clinical depression and suicide.


The second point I'd make is this; it is not easy for persons suffering from clinical depression to explain how they got there. I am convinced that the best way to understand depression is to truly listen to and ponder on the thoughts of someone who has had to deal with the "demon".  And the following are a couple of very perceptive quotes that I found recently:


"That's the thing I want to make clear about depression: It's got nothing at all to do with life. In the course of life, there is sadness and pain and sorrow, all of which, in their right time and season, are normal -- unpleasant, but normal. Depression is an altogether different zone because it involves a complete absence: absence of affect, absence of feeling, absence of response, absence of interest. The pain you feel in the course of a major clinical depression is an attempt on nature's part (nature, after all, abhors a vacuum) to fill up the empty space. But for all intents and purposes, the deeply depressed are just the walking, waking dead."

- Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation



"If you know someone who's depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn't a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather.  Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they're going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It's hard to be a friend to someone who's depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do." 

- Stephen Fry



Someone suffering from depression needs encouragement to seek professional help. This is often a major issue for Irish men because traditionally admitting that you have a problem was seen as a sign of weakness.


There is also an element of a false sense of perfection that is in our culture and belief system. By this I mean the Christian belief that we are to "be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect". This quote from the teaching of Jesus is often misunderstood and taken to mean that we are called to live superhuman lives and somehow not make a mistake. This is a false understanding of what we are called to be as Christians (or simply what it means to be human). We are invited by Jesus to accept and embrace our humanity and the perfection we are asked to imitate is to treat everyone equally, that is, with compassion, mercy and love, just as God treats each one of us.


The reluctance to avoid naming suicide and the shame or stigma, which is, unfortunately, still attached to it, only serves to make the issue worse. Only God has a right to judge us and in Christ there is no condemnation. Our lives are not to be judged by how we exit this world but rather how we tried to live and love as Jesus asks.


From my reading and research it is clear that there are numerous reasons as to why a person can suffer sever depression. For some, the cause can be what is termed Seasonal Affective Disorder (lack of sunlight), for others it may be the wrong diet or lack of exercise may be a contributing factor. Therefore the treatment for clinical depression needs to take a multi-pronged approach, i.e. one that deals with the whole person, mind body and spirit.


I'll finish this reflection with a quote from a piece by Cork Hurler, Conor Cusack, which was published last month in the Irish Independent:


"For those people who are currently gripped by depression, either experiencing it or are supporting or living with someone with it, I hope my story helps.  There is no situation that is without hope; there is no person that can't overcome their present difficulties. For those that are suffering silently, there is help out there and you are definitely not alone."




Two brothers once lived down this way,
and one was Do and one was Say.
If streets were dirty, taxes high,
or schools too crowded, Say would cry:
"My, what a town!" But Brother Do
would set to work to make things new.
And while Do worked, Say still would cry:
"He does it wrong. I know that I could do it right."
So all the day
was heard the clack of Brother Say.
But this one fact from none was hid-
Say always talked, Do always did.

Author: Unknown





On behalf of all at C.I.I.S. I take this chance to wish all of our readers and supporters a very blessed Christmas and prosperous New Year.





Should you have any comments, questions or suggestions, please feel free to contact me at: sliabhanoir@yahoo.com  
or 773-282-8445.









The Irish Apostolate USA is the umbrella organization for the Irish Immigration Pastoral and Outreach Centers in the United States, under the direction of the Irish Episcopal Council for Emigrants. 

Please visit our website for more information:    Irish Apostolate USA 
Geri Garvey, Administrator
Irish Apostolate USA
Phone/Fax:  301-384-3375     Email: administrator@usairish.org