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Why we have to show light to those who are living in darkness

Thought for the weekend

By Fr Patrick McCafferty

In recent weeks, I have celebrated Requiem Mass for three people who died by suicide. For many, even in this beautiful season of lights and lamps, the "light of life" is dimmed.

Those who suffer from depression and anxiety can find this holy season of Advent and Christmas especially painful.

How is it that one person copes with life and another does not? Physically, we all have different levels of strength. What is true of physical strength is also true of mental, psychological and emotional strength.

Human strength is not inexhaustible.

We need to keep working at removing the stigma surrounding mental illness.

We do not blame a child for not being strong enough to carry a ton of bricks, or an elderly neighbour for not being strong enough to carry bags of heavy shopping. We run to their assistance.

Likewise, with psychological strength, we need to create a climate in our communities where it is okay to admit you are not mentally strong - that you may need some assistance.

We must be on the lookout for those whose minds are burdened, whose hearts are weighed down.

There are no simple answers to the complex problems that lead some people to suicide.

But we must tirelessly persist in getting across the message that suicide is not a solution. Suicide is not painless.

There was a time, in the past, when people were afraid to even say the word 'cancer', such was the dread of it.

Nowadays, we stand up to cancer. We are determined that, one day, it will be cured or - at least - robbed of most of its devastating power.

We need a similar approach to mental illness and suicide.

Those organisations that offer 24 hour emergency support need to be fully supported and properly funded to address this epidemic of despair that has been robbing our communities of beloved relatives and friends for many years now.

Our Christian faith is grounded in reality and is centred upon God, in His Son, coming into the midst of every aspect of that reality, which is often pain-filled for a lot of people.

The Child, whose birthday we are about to celebrate, is the Saviour of the hopeless, who is close to the broken-hearted and who saves those whose spirit is crushed (Psalm 34:18).

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