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Glamorising suicide is a dangerous game

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The devastating effects of suicide and its prevalence in our society have been highlighted by a group of high profile figures and a well-known parish priest. File image posed by model

The devastating effects of suicide and its prevalence in our society have been highlighted by a group of high profile figures and a well-known parish priest. File image posed by model

The devastating effects of suicide and its prevalence in our society have been highlighted by a group of high profile figures and a well-known parish priest. File image posed by model

The devastating effects of suicide and its prevalence in our society have been highlighted by a group of high profile figures and a well-known parish priest. In a letter published in the Belfast Telegraph, major figures from the worlds of entertainment, sport, education and the voluntary sector have called on Stormont Health Minister Robin Swann to declare a public emergency on suicide.

They also request the doubling of funding for counselling and a guarantee that no-one will wait for more than 28 days for an appointment.

The seriousness of the situation is underlined by the fact more than 300 people in Northern Ireland died by suicide in 2017 and 2018 and Father Gary Donegan has made hard-hitting comments about how to deal with the crisis.

In an interview with this paper he underlines how he refuses to 'glamorise' suicide and its bitter legacy. He will not permit football tops, rap music or excessive floral tributes at funerals he conducts for young victims.

He pointedly says: "By allowing non-religious paraphernalia at funerals you are condoning the message that these kids have gone on to better things. This is wrong because it encourages other young people to consider doing the same thing."

The priest also believes the awfulness of suicide often becomes diluted when a well-known person takes their own life. He says: "What often happens is that person after person gets up and gives a eulogy canonising that individual."

Fr Donegan also highlights drugs which, he believes, are partly to blame for the escalation of our suicide rates here, the worst in the UK. He says that some mind-altering drugs create a paranoia which makes potential suicide victims think that they will have "their day of glory in a packed church", but the legacy is very different.

Dealing with bereaved families, he recalls: "Take a look into the eyes of a heartbroken, devastated mum." When all the crowds are gone, the bereaved are left with that awful reality all the time.

Fr Donegan also points out that the buck stops with society and that we all have a role to play. This is an extremely complex area of social behaviour, especially with so many young people killing themselves.

However if suicide was less "glamorised", this might have an effect. Fr Donegan summarises the message that everyone, and especially young people, should hear: "Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem."

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