Friday 15 December 2017

Dear Mary: I feel let down by people down home

Is the lack of care in Irish society indirectly causing suicides? It was National Suicide Awareness Week recently and thankfully, I am not depressed or suicidal, but have been in the distant past.

I got through it with personal resilience, patient and kind counselling, and support from a small group of friends in the city where I live.

I now have a bit of defiance in my soul, but in a good way.

I know now I can survive life, even if I am totally alone -- not that I wish to be. I live a happier life, give to charity now and then and I watch out for others going through hard times.

It has been five years since I have experienced depression, but I do take a low dosage anti-depressant every morning.

It has no side-effects, I sleep OK and it keeps my life normal and happy.

I also take vitamin supplements. That is the good part.

The bad part, Mary, is how I never tell my warm circle around me as to my sadness and feelings of being let down by people down home who never bother to keep contact with me, not even a courtesy reply text, and God help us, they'd freak at sending me an email.

Nope, they don't do that either. These are reserved, rural folk who do seem to keep others at arm's length. It usually happens when they get married -- they disappear behind closed doors, never to be seen again.

I exaggerate, but there is some truth in this. They focus on family exclusively, and don't seem to put themselves out for anyone.

They don't want to do friendships and the only word that one will get out of some in a town street is 'hello'.

Then people wonder why suicide has so increased in the last 20 years.

I often now wonder as to how people today would have got on in the Great Famine.

Would they have helped others or let them sink?

Curiously, the one phrase that I have heard people down home say is how we need to look after ourselves, put ourselves first. Still, it can go too far.

Suicide and depression are hidden issues in those communities.

It is a factor as to semi-rural and rural suicides, in my view. There are great communities out there too, like how the people of Clonakilty rallied together in the face of severe floods in the summer, and others too.

But I write of places where the sense of community is not strong.

What is one to make of that behaviour? If someone of them were to die of suicide, they'd be there at the funeral, but not in life. Typical Irish hypocrisy, I wonder? Or is it that they just don't care?

Mary replies:

You sign yourself A Sad Reader. Your letter is indeed sad and gives us all food for thought. I don't think that what you speak of is hypocrisy but people not thinking.

We are all inclined to be wrapped up in our own lives and concerned with whatever is causing us a problem at any given time. As long as our neighbours seem to be doing all right then we tend not to get involved.

However, when something happens such as the flooding you mention, or a family tragedy, we are very good at rallying around and giving support.

So perhaps the secret is in letting people know we have needs -- it is much easier to pretend that everything is fine rather than admit to what might be perceived as a weakness.

Sometimes this is too difficult -- which is where Console or the Samaritans are such a help.

You are proof that depression can be overcome.

It's an interesting phenomenon that people who get married and have families tend to change their socialising to those who are in the same category.

They forge new friendships with other parents through school events and children's parties and sports.

I don't know if you are male or female, but generally females are better at keeping in touch with old friends through the years regardless of what is going on in their lives.

Technology does indeed enable us to keep in touch with friends, and it's a shame that people in your home town haven't responded when you texted or emailed them.

It is good that you have a warm circle of friends where you now live, and your letter should serve as a reminder to people in rural areas to be more aware of neighbours and what they might be feeling.

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