For too long, this, our island that sits on the edge of Europe perched in the swells of an ocean was defined by war. A war that wreaked havoc, heartbreak and hopelessness. And though the war of the two Irelands that raged for too long has thankfully been quelled, our battles are not over.
Another war has been declared on Ireland and it has been waged on us by suicide and mental illness. It has been a quiet takeover, owning a loud boast of taking 550 lives a year. It is a dirty opponent with dirty tricks that doesn’t follow the rules of war. It has its own agenda, with anarchy embraced as its mode of operandi. Suicide and mental illness is an enemy that is merciless in its intent, ruthless in its conquests and indifferent to its victims. It has no rhyme or reason, answers no questions and leaves a trail of desolation in its wake. This is not an adversary that preys just on the weak and the vulnerable but prides itself on overcoming even the strongest. No one is immune.
But this is not a new war. It has raged for some time and owes its longevity and durability to a cruel strategy. It feeds on our silence and discomfort, has gotten fat on our reticence to confront and to challenge and has detonated with devastation equal to any explosion.
Suicide does not just happen to one person. It happens to the father, mother, sister, brother, son, daughter, niece, nephew, aunt, uncle, grandmother, grandfather, grandchild and friends of those lost to suicide. Just as the Boston bombers put nails in their homemade bombs to inflict maximum injury, suicide ensures that the circle surrounding those lost to suicide will forever be pierced, maimed and scarred. The ooze over time might dry, but the wounds will never cease to bleed.
However, suicide is not an unconquerable beast and mental illness need not be a belligerent tyrant. We must see refuge in the evidence-based knowledge that suicide as a foe can be defeated. And the endeavour to fight back begins with a simple message. Simply put, it is okay not to feel okay and we must remind each other all the time that seeking help is not a sign of weakness but every illustration of strength. This is our sword and shield. This is the lifter of all our heads. And this is a message not just for those suffering from suicidal tendencies and mental illness, this is a message too for those who love and surround them. Getting help is not about losing control but all about taking control.
We are an island on the edge of Europe that knows the Atlantic gales too well and the winds of war even better. But history has shown us that not only have we survived both but we have thrived. We will break the cycle of suicide, the winds will ease and together, with each other’s help, holding each other’s hand, we will see a new horizon, the gales will ease to a breeze and what we thought was lost for so long will be retrieved and found. With help.