The Blanket

The Right to Live

Davy Carlin

In recent times in West Belfast there have been several instances, in as many weeks, of suicides - 'the act of killing oneself intentionally'. I have read and listened to a number of persons' reasonings to this situation and as to why they believe that in West and indeed North Belfast the suicide rate is twice that of elsewhere in the North. One of the more interesting aspects of conversation was the attempted parallels by some of the possible similarity between that of suicides and that of euthanasia - 'the act of killing someone painlessly'. This was in part to attempt to reopen the debate in relation to recent events in various European Nation's parliaments as well as trying to attempt to direct the matter towards the comparison of both suicide and euthanasia for a particular interest. One should understand though that suicide is not a question of the right to die - but in many cases in fact is both an unanswered and unacknowledged fundamental question in relation to the right to live.

My reasoning for this is that increasingly in many cases a pattern emerges in relation to those who commit the act of suicide, many are young, many are male, some have psychological problems, others believe that material and society based problems are too much to take while others still have past or present experiences that they believe offers only one alternative. It is though of no coincidence that the areas affected most by these situations, with two fold rates of suicide, are those who borne the brunt of the conflict and who continue in many cases to do so through this process of post-conflict resolution. That is not to say that other areas of wider society do not suffer in relation to this, as this grief has visited families of many through out the North. The pattern though and the increasing numbers within these areas do suggest a reasoning for this and I would place it in the context of the present structure of society, the financial base (or lack of) provided and afforded to those communities and the perceived emotional cloak placed on young men, to be men, especially within those areas.

These communities hold the highest levels of unemployment, of poverty induced social exclusion, of social and economic deprivation, of generational educational instability; of having to face the situation from conflict to a post-conflict situation and with it, all that that delivers. This not only in mindset but also practically, such as not being allowed a job because of a conflict related conviction or previously 'once involved' attempting to adapt to community or relationship change due to the new political circumstances. On top of this such communities still face
interface violence and continual sectarianism while also facing an increase of community based instabilities due to both external and internal factors. While all this affects the community as a whole there is a very limited financed structural base within those communities. This lack of funding and limited resources does little to help those who need it and while both men and women are affected, young men on many occasions do tend to hide their feelings and withdraw into themselves more so than women. Such a situation then develops through continual economic and social alienation felt within the individual which can trigger and cause psychological effect. Other reasons are also suggested for the fact of an increase in, and the pattern of suicides but practically, with little funds to provide support to those that want it, and as importantly with virtually none provided to reach out to those that need it, this situation will continue.

So this continual peace process has delivered for some a decent living, for others a chance to make a living, but for many in such areas little change, while for some a life believed not worth living.

Suicide is only one aspect of many problems to be faced within our society and like so many other such issues that affect many of our peoples and communities it needs to be challenged ultimately at its root causes. We need initially to provide the proper resources and facilities not only to provide support but also to provide hope for people to look forward to some kind of decent life. Many of our people especially within such communities need to believe that they can achieve a future in which they can have a decent life, rather than looking to that like many of their parents, of constant struggle and at times merely existing, so believing only to see their children's opportunities providing the same.

If there is to be a process it should be a process of continual equality of opportunity, provision for the needy, facilities for the vulnerable, funding and resources for those communities most at need. It should not be a process of the cutting of funding, the closing of facilities or the axing of resources. It should be initially a process of attempting continual economic, political and social equality, based on the needs of the needy and not the greedy, a process that includes not excludes, a process that supports not rejects, a process that provides hope and justice for all, and not a process of isolation and alienation but of collectivity and for community integration.

Those who, and in many cases violently decide to end their lives do so for particular reasons, which is due in many cases to the internal and external workings of our society, its make up, its relationships and its structures. They leave behind many relatives who ask why? or what if? - so then leaving in many cases lifelong emotional turmoil behind for others. I believe society can be judged on how it treats it most vulnerable and therefore I believe that such increases and concentration of suicides in various communities are a reflection of society's priorities (or not) as a whole. Isn't it time that those who presently hold the strings begin to attempt to effect change on this developing situation and initially provide the material resources and finances to help deal with the situation. In the long term we need to start questioning the issues of the root causes that give such instances rise, which in many cases is developed through individual isolation and alienation from peoples, community and wider society. To begin to deal with this we first need to have an understanding and a collective will to challenge the progressing status quo and attempt to deliver a situation where attitudes to, and such reasoning for suicide are decreased by the collective actions taken to tackle the problem.






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The man who lets a leader prescribe his course is a wreck being towed to the scrap heap.
- Ayn Rand
Index: Current Articles

6 October 2002


Other Articles From This Issue:


That Book
Tommy McKearney


"SOS - Save Our Stormont"

Anthony McIntyre


Birds of Ireland
Brian Mór


The Right to Live
Davy Carlin


Interview with Colombian Human Rights Worker



Willpower of Revolutionaries


4 October 2002


Revealing Secrets


At Last We Know the Human Cost of Gerry Adams

Paul Bew


The Boys of the Old Brigade Are Not Happy
Brian Mór


Segregation in Oldham
Mark Hayes


Common Denominators

Aine Fox


SF - Stormont First
Anthony McIntyre


Dispatches from the U.S. Anti-War Movement
Julie Brown


Preventing the Bush Turkey Shoot
Steve McWilliams




The Blanket




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Index: Current Articles
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The Blanket Magazine Winter 2002
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