Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Facing a Death by Suicide

Korea  continues to lead the world in the number of suicides. A priest-professor at a Catholic University gives us his own experience in a WithBible article dealing with the problem. 

At the very beginning  as a new priest, he had an experience where a woman member of the parish came to him crying, for shortly before, after a fight with her husband, he left and hanged himself. She didn't know how she could go on living.

He didn't know how to react to the news. He had no idea what to say or do. He knew that it was a serious sin and the Church did not allow a formal funeral service. He was not able to console the woman. An older priest who was a friend of the husband went to the hospital, had the funeral rites and was a help to the family. Shortly after the women came to the rectory to thank him, she was moving out of the parish. He remembers he was not able to look the woman in the face.

Korea, he says, is not yet able to understand the seriousness of the problem or provide sufficient countermeasures. In 1995 we had 4,930 who killed themselves but from 2003 the numbers are well over 10,000 and lead the world. 

Those that commit suicide usually are suffering from depression. During this period we had the foreign exchange and financial crisis which increased failures in business, difficulty finding work and family squabbles, giving rise to stress, depression and suicides.

Elders also have a higher rate of suicide than other countries: poverty, sickness, loneliness, can't be discounted. The breakdown of the extended family, the community network of the past disappeared with individualization, citification and industrialization all helping the alienation felt by many of the older generation. Many attempted to free themselves from their feeling of helplessness, uneasiness, and loneliness with liquor and pleasure but this was only temporary and the stress just increased and many took the extreme way out.

Suicide is a scar that is not  easily healed. To take one's  life is an offense against the creator of life, against the invitation and mission that was received and refused, and the love  for God, others and oneself. However, because of the many extenuating circumstances, the Church recognizes that grave psychological problems, anguish, fear, suffering, emotional state can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.

With this understanding, it is not only the person that we blame but more so  ourselves for lack of interest and compassion on the pain suffered by many of those who take their own lives and our failure to be of help.

He concludes the article with an incident that happened to him a few years earlier. A woman whom he knew telephoned him, crying, to tell him that her daughter after giving birth, suffering from depression took her life. Because of his experience as a young priest and his immaturity at that time, familiar with the  Church's  teaching he went immediately to the hospital to  console the family. He knew the hesitation they would have in notifying the faith community so he offered the funeral Mass at the hospital. He considered the efforts that he expended in showing concern for the family as a penance for his immaturity as a young priest.                                                                   

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