Lessons From Bridgend

It is troubling when anyone commits suicide but even moreso the young who seem to have their whole lives ahead of them. The death of youth spells the death of promise and possibility. It seems cruelly ironic that whereas given the opportunity so many would like to have a another chance to relive their lives, there are those for whom life has barely begun yet who are willing to throw it all away. From January 2007 until February 2012, there have been seventy-nine suicides in Bridgend in North Wales, the victims ranging from 13-41. The town has quickly earned the reputation as a suicide hotspot. In journalists’ attempts to grab attention, they may be giving the wrong impression to any impressionable residents that the town is somehow cursed, and that for troubled youth who live there, they have no option but to take this fatal step.

We need a revival of community spirit whereby people look out for each other and become each other’s keepers. Secrets and lies always precede tragedy. When the communication lines between family members, neighbours and best friends become closed, issues become buried and not resolved.Individualism is the philosophy which is ruling the masses. We feel no sense of loyalty or accountability to God and significant others. That explains why a young girl could choose to die in a public park without the knowledge of her parents to be a discovered by a total stranger. 

Rather than viewing it as a medical problem, Durkheim (1897) saw suicide as caused by the failure of people to become adjusted to or integrated into society and to absorb its values and norms. As a result, he maintained, people with strong group ties are less likely to commit suicide. They are more sensitive to the standards and expectations of the group, including opposition to group dissolution and suicide, and more susceptible to the enforcement of those standards. It follows that an important deterrent to suicide by distressed or depressed people is involvement and identification with others. [Death, Dying and Bereavement]

Suicide solves nothing, it causes a domino effect of misery and grief. It’s painful enough for the family to have to deal with a sudden death, but to add to that the knowledge that their love, presence or companionship was not enough to forestall self-destruction, usually gives way to deep-seated feelings of guilt.

They will be left with a legacy of guilt, shame and ultimate rejection. It may well be that Dale Crole, who was the first of the seventeen suicide victims, unknowingly modelled a way of coping with problems that captured the imagination of a community of impressionable youngsters.

Modern living with its electronic and digital conveniences, excessive advertising and focus on affluent lifestyles of the rich and famous, has conditioned many to believe that a life with suffering is not worth living. We are not taught that suffering is a part of the human condition. Of course, there is a certain kind of suffering that is needless, but we cannot afford to fail our children and future generations by leading them to believe that life was meant to be easy. The flip side is that there is a sweet satisfaction that comes from struggling towards a worthy and self-determined goal. 

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