Friday, 2 December 2011

Gary Speed, Depression & Suicide

I am writing this post sitting up in bed drinking some effervescent vitamin C feeling rather drained.

Man Flu is a real issue and comes about because quite frankly, men are weaker than women.

It has been some time since I last blogged and I put that down to a) not having the time to comment on mundane things and b) not having a topic which enthused me enough to blog. As I now find myself drifting in and out of a Lemsip induced trance, I thought I might put virtual pen to virtual paper.

This week, I was shocked and saddened to hear of the tragic death of Gary Speed. It is always difficult to accept the death of someone before their time but it is even more so when that person takes their own life. In Gary Speed's case, we don't yet know the details which led him to his decision, but it is all the more poignant because every single friend who has spoken about him has been dumbstruck and unable to identity the source of his difficulties.

The Beatles suggested that "All you need is love" but this simply is not true. You also need Faith and Hope. People who do decide to take their own lives may no longer have Faith in other people or believe that no-one has Faith in them. They also do not hope for something better or beyond their suffering.

The very day that Gary Speed took his own life, his fellow former professional footballer Stan Collymore was in the midst of a depressive episode. In it, he wrote a poignant and informative description of what it was like.

The Catholic Church has not always had a complete understanding of suicide because the psychological impact of depression was not understood until relatively recently. It was therefore always analysed in purely spiritual terms.

Suicide is contrary to the Fifth Commandment and contrary to justice, hope, and charity.

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states in paragraph 2281, "Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbour because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God."

It was often believed to be the one sin for which one could not be forgiven because suicide was committed against Hope and the Holy Spirit - the giver of life (Mt 12: 31). For this reason, those who had committed suicide were often denied a Christian burial.

Particular condemnation is reserved for those who encourage it as a viable social norm:

"If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an example, especially to the young, it also takes on the gravity of scandal. Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law." (CCC §2282)

Today, the Church understands that as a person needs to be in full control of their faculties to bear the full responsibility of a sin, the gravity of suicide can be mitigated by its circumstances:

"Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide." (CCC §2282)

It also actively encourages the faithful to pray for those who have died in such tragic circumstances:

"We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives." (CCC 2283)

I knew Gary Speed was a consummate professional and a proud Welshman but as the tributes continue to pour in, it is clear that he was a great friend to many people.

May choirs of angels come to greet him & speed him to paradise. May the Lord enfold him in His mercy. May he find eternal life.

PS: For the record, the Patron Saints for those suffering with depression and anxiety are St Jude and St Dymphna.

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