Friday, July 29, 2011

We Are Our Brother's Keeper

Writing for the Catholic Magazine, a Religious Sister, who heads the desk for the prevention of suicides at the headquarters of the One Heart One Body Movement, reflects on the progress and needs of the movement.  We continue to hear about suicides, she says, but there is little that is being done. She admits that she feels helpless about the situation, which is part of the reason we are, she contends, not only leading in the number of suicides among the developed countries, but Korea is also number one in the increase of suicides.

Every 37 minutes a young person commits suicide. She laments that few are  concerned, after an initial response of "It's sad." There is no desire to understand or appreciate the seriousness and sadness of the situation. The Sister feels that without this basic empathy for those that are taking their lives, we will not see much  change. She wants us to realize that we are dealing not only with the death of the individual but with the person who discovers the suicide, the family, friends, the school teachers-- in all there is likely to be at least six persons who are mentally and emotionally affected by the death. The  potential for epidemic results occurring is also present.  It is not only an individual problem but a societal one. And we shouldn't forget that those who attempt suicide are 10 to 20 times the number that succeeds in taking their life.

Mass media coverage of suicides is also a problem. Little discretion is shown in the reporting, as if the reasons for the suicide were warranted. The news reports sound as if suicide is a natural consequence of  what the person was facing and gives the impression that suicide was one way of solving the problem. There are many who have the same and more pressing problems but have no thoughts about suicide.

There are many steps  before a person takes their life, the Sister says. It is not just a one-step process. Catholics see suicide as a sin but also know that it is in most cases the result of mental stress the person can't overcome. So there is no longer any difficulty in having a funeral Mass for the deceased.

The One Heart One Body Movement is trying to educate the many different groups in the Church to become more aware of persons who are in need of help. Korea has started the Gatekeeper Movement to sensitize citizens to those who are under mental stress and might be contemplating suicide. The Sister hopes that more Catholic parish groups  will take advantage of the programs and use them as a leaven to expand the work throughout the country. Sister reminds us we are our brother's keeper, and with the appropriate knowledge, we will be able to hear the silent screams.

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