Monday, November 22, 2010

Going beyond Fragmentation 1 - The Case of Suicide


Stone: Donabate Beach, October, 2010
One can only praise The Irish Times for its highlighting of mental health problems, amongst many other woes, that benight our small island country.  In the past week the editor brought us five well-researched articles on suicide, articles based on sensitively conducted interviews with family members left behind.  Once again, take a bow, Geraldine Kennedy.  You are a gifted and sensitive editor.  In Friday's article Fiona Giles, whose brother Stephen ended his own life spoke about the stigma which still surrounds this sad subject:

The stigma of suicide also impacted heavily on the family. Fiona remembers hearing stories from people that Stephen must have planned his death, or must have been suffering from depression, or that something was wrong within his family or among his friends.

“That was very hurtful, people making those kinds of assumptions or judgments. It might be the case with some people, but the truth is they didn’t know. As far as I can see, what he did was impulsive. There was no warning at all,” she says.“Some people stayed away and didn’t call to the house, people you’d expect to, because they felt it would be too weird. Or people would avoid you on the street or in the supermarket. It was like people were judging you. That attitude shows the kind of stigma there still is around this issue.”  See this link here: Suicide 5
In the Thursday article, a mother called Faith Morris spoke of her 13 year old son Joseph's suicide, and once again she hihlighted its impulsiveness:

Then, they found a note he had written.  On it, he listed off his family members and said he loved them all.  He mentioned that he was sick of being small, of being teased about his height and that he didn’t like what he saw when he looked in the mirror.  He was tired of being in trouble and he insisted that everyone else would be better off without him.  Small things. Typical teenage problems. The kind of issues which might have seemed enormous for a young teenager, but which would quickly fade with time. “After reading that, it seems like it was just a spur of the moment thing. We think it was something impulsive, that it just went too far,” says Faith.See this link here:  Suicide 4
The Wednesday article was an interview with a young man called Damian Martin who tried to take his own life by driving at top speed through Dublin city centre. Now recovered, he wants to help prevent other young people ending up in a similar crisis. Something inside Damian snapped. He’d just had a blazing row with a colleague at work. On top of that, he’d been arguing with his friends. He felt he couldn’t talk to his parents. His relationship with his girlfriend and mother to his child had broken down. His life, it seemed, was collapsing around him.
... [T]he following January, after he was arrested for dangerous driving in Dublin city centre. His parents suggested he talk to a former neighbour, John Quinn, who had lost his son to suicide a few years previously. In his sitting room, they sat down for an hour and a half; Quinn explained what he was going through, how he needed help, and that suicide was a permanent solution to a temporary problem. It all began to make sense. The next morning, he was assessed at Pieta House, a centre for the prevention of self-harm and suicide. And the following day, he started therapy. See this link: Suicide 2 
Monday's article was an interview with John Quinn who is named in the above quoted paragraph.  His interview recounts the sheer devastation left behind after the suicide of his son.  Yet, this strong man went on to found a local support group for other families bereaved by suicide and also to fund-raise for Pieta' House, also referred to above.

Caring for the Soul

A gull swoops to get the seal's food: Howth October 2010
There is obviously no easy solution to the problem, indeed mystery of suicide.  However, one thing is clear: the poor people who are driven to do it are deeply hurting and extremely vulnerable souls.  They can see absolutely no way out of their dreadful predicament, no way to switch off the pain of being alive; no way to switch off the taunting, frightening and painful thoughts which chase each other inexorably around their haunted minds.  "Lights out," would seem to be the only desperate cure.  However, as the experts so wisely say: "Suicide is a permanent answer to a temporary problem!"  How true this statement is!  How painfully so, indeed!

Learning the Language of the Soul:

I have entitled this paragraph "learning the language of the soul" as I firmly believe that there has been a rise in the number of suicides, especially among young men in Ireland, due to the soul-less pursuit of sheer materialism during the years of the Celtic Tiger which had the whole population practically "bowing the knee at the shrine" of this mythical feline.  Never before was care for the soul so much needed.  Let me here return to the great scholar and exponent of Expressive Arts Therapy, Professor Stephen Levine.  He advocates the efficacy of the arts and of poiesis for the healing of the Western soul, which has been sickened or rather poisoned by the toxins of rampant capitalism and impersonal consumerism.  I'll finish this post with a longish quotation from his introductory remarks to his wonderfully inspiring little book called Poiesis: The Language of Psychology and the Speech of the Soul (Jessica Kingsley, 1997):

It is essential to human being to fall apart, to fragment, disintegrate, and to experience the despair that comes with lack of wholeness.  To what can we turn, then, in this moment of crisis?  I believe that it is at this critical moment that the possibility of creative living arises.  If we can let go of our previous identities zand move into the experience of the void, then the possibility arises for new forms of existence to emerge.  Poiesis, the creative act, occurs as the death and rebirth of the soul.  The integration and affirmation of the psyche are one and the same.  But this new identity only lives in the actuality of the creative process.  We are called upon constantly to re-form ourselves, to engage in what James Hillman calls "soul-making."  Poiesis as soul-making; this vision is at the core of my thinking in this book. (Levine, op.cit., p. xvi)
Therefore, we must teach our youngsters, as well as the older amongst us, the language of the soul.  We must teach them to be in tune with their souls, to listen to them, to use their creative gifts, whether that be music, writing, painting, sculpting, composing, singing or many of the other myriad forms of artistic engagement, in fleshing out or embodying the spark of the human imagination.  If suicide is the supreme denial of life and in consequence the most destructive act possible, only an equal and opposite act, namely that of the sheer creativity of the imagination can have the power to obliterate it from the fragile mind.

No comments: