Belfast Telegraph

Mum's tortured words show impact of suicide

Editor's Viewpoint

The statistics are horrifying enough but it is only when you drill down into the individual stories that the full impact of suicide begins to hit home.

How can anyone bear the burden that has fallen on the Ferrin family from Belfast who have lost three sons who took their own lives, the last one just 12 days ago?

The tortured words of Patricia Ferrin in her interview in this newspaper today reveal something of the agony that she, her husband and two daughters are suffering yet again.

Like so many others bereaved in such circumstances they are left with questions of why their loved ones felt driven to take this ultimate step to ease whatever demons they were fighting? There is also the wonder among those left behind if they could have done more?

Such questions are natural but there are never any satisfactory answers. As this tragic case reveals, the family did all they could to help the last remaining son but to no avail.

Sadly, suicide has reached epidemic proportions in this society. In 2015, 318 people took their own lives, the highest total since records began in 1970.

A statistic revealed in Mrs Ferrin's interview shows up the prevalence of suicide. As well as her three sons, a cousin and seven of their friends had died in this manner over a period of years.

Just why there are such clusters of deaths - a phenomenon noted also in other parts of the UK - is not known. Indeed, many of us cannot imagine why anyone would take their own life, especially young people.

Can their lives be so empty that they have no meaning? Are mental health problems now so prevalent - and resources so stretched - that sufferers snap before help can be given?

What part does the drug culture play in some cases or pressure from malign forces such as paramilitaries?

Like the bereaved relatives, we are confronted by many questions but few answers.

Some £7m is spent annually on suicide prevention services and while no one doubts the hard and invaluable work of both statutory and voluntary agencies, the evidence shows that the problem is growing.

We need a functioning devolved administration to devise new policies and devote more resources to this challenge. The politicians' failure to get back in office continue to frustrate and anger the public.

Belfast Telegraph

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