In his column in the Catholic Peace Weekly, a priest psychologist recalls the parents who brought their son, in his early 30s, to see him. The father said that his son attempted suicide a number of times since his first attempt in his mid-twenties and still seeks the opportunity to end his life. Both parents have to keep their eyes on him continually. There is no time to relax because of the tension and anxiety they have about the son.
The father turned to his son telling him to ask the priest whatever he wanted. However, his son was silent and often look out into space and sighed. The mother sat next to the priest with a sad expression and seemed unable to say anything. The three of them came for counseling, no one said a word.
Nevertheless, the priest did not feel the need to be the first to step in and change the mood. He knew that at times silence has more meaning than conversation, the silence is saying more than any words.
Parents were burning up insides with the long silence but the young man and the priest were getting to know each other. The young man seemed to realize that the priest was not someone who was ready to teach or admonish. And the priest made the discovery that the young man really did not want to die.
It took thirty minutes after the counseling began for the young man's perusal of the priest to be completed. He began speaking with the following words."Father, please tell me why I should not die. If I hear it and fully understand, I will not die. But if the reason is no different from what I've heard so far, I will commit suicide."
This young man's question reminded the priest that suicide is not giving up on life, but choosing death. This young man's life was pain and emptiness. Hence, living seemed to mean nothing. He found no comfort and hope in life. It would be much harder to explain to this young man why he shouldn't die than to explain why he should live.
The priest could not offer any word of advice for he knew they would mean little to the young man. Such banality was not what he was looking to find. The young man's request to tell him why he should not die was, in fact, asking the priest to understand his pain. The priest firmly believed that the young man wanted someone to sympathize with him.
Since the first meeting, he has met the young man more than 20 times. Now he is preparing for a test to find a new job, and when he is filled with feelings of hurt or scared he does come to see the priest. This did not mean that his life pains were reduced. The idea that there was one man who could share the pain seemed to lead him to take a step back from despair.
In fact, the priest would say that "Want to die" is another expression for "Want to live."
Suicide is a serious issue in Korea and has been for many years. A sign that something is not right; pressure and gloom which usually is the lot of the poor is a concern of the country which continues to look for answers.