Suicide Prevention Project – Communities Coming Together

Clare Communities unite to prevent Suicide

The Inn at Dromoland

Tuesday 16th of April 2024

Thank you for the invitation to join you this evening for this special event here, entitled a Suicide Prevention Project – Communities Coming Together.    Well done to Sheila and collaborators in organising this important event.

As I understand it, this gathering is trying to explore a community based strategy for assisting people struggling with mental health issues.  The focus is also on outreach to families and communities affected by this important issue.

Parish and Diocesan Experience – on the Ground

In the various parishes in the county and the diocese clergy, pastoral care ministers and parishioners know and realise the extent of the issues that arise as a result of people taking their own lives.  The effects of sudden loss of life can be devastating for families and communities.  In my humble opinion it’s one of the best parts of our Church mission, being available to people affected by such issues, from the prevention stage to the time honoured rituals that give consolation and solace to people when needed.

A more enlightened approach!

Great strides have been made in the area of understanding mental health issues.  Patient understanding, empathy, therapies, treatment, medication, encouragement, outreach is now the order of the day.  The emphasis now is on awareness, alertness, communication, care, avoiding judgement, stigma and condemnation.

The fundamental instinct to live life!

The most fundamental instinct of any individual is to live, to thrive and to preserve his or her own life, no matter what the cost.  For someone to take his or her life – there is something radically wrong.  We only have a fraction of understanding into the trauma of mental illness.  The amount of people that I know who have described the horrors of depression is so sad.  Who is anyone in our society to judge another who takes the step to end their lives.  Compassion, care, understanding, not judgment is the way forward.  There are always supports available.  There is always someone to cares and available to talk to.  Is gaire cabhair Dé ná an doras as the old saying goes from our tradition.  God’s help is always closer than the door!

The Approach of times Apart

Unfortunately in the past there was a less than compassionate approach to mental illness and associated stigma.  The Church, sadly was at times complicit in this approach and lack of understanding.  We saw elements of this with the denial of the normal rituals of burial to people who took their own lives.  There was a similar approach for babies who died before baptism.   There were designated burial plots, apart from ‘consecrated ground’.  Fortunately a much more enlightened and understanding approach is now taken in an age that has benefited from the insights of modern social sciences and mental health care.  One can see how this previous approach may have derived from a well-intentioned desire to protect and safeguard life and communities, but in doing that was an overly protective emphasis in the implementation.

Image from St. Bridget’s Church

I recall meeting the parish priest of Liscannor, Fr. Denis Crosby on a visit to his Church, St Bridget’s.  He gave insight into an image at the back of the Church which combines a bright white image, the crucified Christ to the forefront mounted on a stark, dark background.  It is representative of the many who have taken their lives at the Cliffs of Moher which is in the parish.  The cliffs.  A place of light and darkness.

Darkness into Light

What a great and powerful symbol that contrast offers us.  Darkness and light.  It is no wonder that it’s at the heart of the great and well attended fundraising efforts of Pieta House, Darkness into Light.  This year it’s at 4.15 am on May 11th and so many communities around Clare engage wholeheartedly with this great challenging venture.

The Light of the Resurrection Hope

Darkness into light is the great motif of our resurrection faith in the Vigil of Easter Sunday and dawn Masses celebrated in parishes around the county.  As Christians we are called to be people of hope to gravitate towards the light from the darkness of this world.

Interagency Approach

I am so heartened by the many community groups who have wholeheartedly embraced the issues around this important issue.  Schools at both primary and secondary and indeed third level are so clued into this important issue and the DES, HSE , concerned parents, Church and local communities are constantly addressing ways to help.

HSE Strategy

The HSE has a National Suicide Prevention Office and a National Action Plan.  It’s implementation is supported by a national inter-agency and inter-governmental committee.  The Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience, under the auspices of the Clare County Council has trained customer service staff in suicide awareness and prevention.

Cliffs of Moher – Prayer Focus

For the past three years a North Clare Prayer Group has organised an annual Mass and prayer service to pray for all affected.  It is supported by the Clare County Council.  This year the Mass will be held at 6.30 pm on May 30th at the Cliffs, weather permitting.  All are welcome to attend.


I thank you for your attendance here today and your interest in this vitally important issue.  Together as a united community we can make significant progress to improve quality of lives and ultimately save life.  God go with us in that important quest.

✠ Fintan Monahan – Bishop of Killaloe