It's difficult to escape the growing gloom regarding suicide in this county. South Kerry coroner Terence Casey spoke again last week about the truly frightening number of young men who are being lost to suicide.
The overwhelming tragedy that these young men leave in their wake, is mirrored in the stunned confusion of those of us left behind. There can even be anger and accusations of selfishness leveled at the departed.
How many of us have felt the bewildering anguish of depression? To be gripped by an emotional pain so intense, that it feels like a physical ache. To have an ever present knot of anxiety in the belly. The tension in the chest so tight it restricts breathing. Eyes that feel filled with sand, as one battles both insomnia and lethargy.
How does one explain that for no obvious reason, the prospect of nonexistence seems so much more attractive and easier than to continue enduring this waking nightmare? If one is an apparently healthy young man, it is especially difficult to put into words, why instead of feeling the immortal arrogance, common to young men, one feels the agonising pang of despair.
We are failing to identify suicide for what it is. A catastrophic symptom of depression. We are failing to identify suicide for what it is. The end of an illness, that could have been treated if only the shame had been replaced with the firm knowledge that this a treatable disease. We are failing to identify suicide for what it is.
Our young men are being lost in a resource war. They are being lost because we are failing to provide them with the two things they most desperately need, the words to explain their pain and people to understand those words.
This failing is particularly galling in this post-embarrassment age. Now we speak and laugh openly about fingers being stuck up old fellas bums. Prostate cancer is an easy to understand disease. We know how to find it and to treat it. There is no shame in a prostate exam.
Everyday there are ads in newspapers, on TV and on the radio, urging us to check our poo for blood. Colon cancer is an easy disease to understand. We are told to check our testicles, check our breasts. Have our moles examined, have smear tests done and to cough as the doctor checks for hernias.
There are ads for viagra. Lubricants, condoms and toys of all descriptions are available to those who want or need them. Embarrassment is no longer the norm. There are ads for incontinence pads, sanitary towels, tampons, adult diapers, haemorrhoid creams and ointments for thrush. The days of suffering in silence, of brown paper bags and shame are gone.
Yet for one of the young gods that grace our playing fields to admit to depression, is still a hurdle too far. Depression, like any disease, will take its share of victims. This is inevitable. But the numbers currently being lost is unforgivable.
We innoculate babies to save them from the ravages of measles and polio. The best inoculation we can provide for depression, are forewarning, the words to explain and an environment in which to be sick and recover. No one accuses a cancer victim of selfishness, we need to extend the same understanding and love to those suffering depression. It'll help save lives.