Thursday, February 3, 2011

Loneliness a factor in suicide increase

A sad reflection on the so-called ‘advances’ in social life is the fact that the number of suicides among older people is steadily increasing, particularly in rural Ireland.   This alarming situation was highlighted by a coroner in Co. Kerry recently.   The coroner is quoted as saying that while the common perception is that young people are the most likely to take their own lives – mainly because of stress and peer pressure – his experience over the past few years is that older people are now becoming a significant statistic in the suicide figures.   There are many, and complex, reasons behind this worrying trend (although a suicide at any age is a tragedy – not alone for the person involved, but even more-so for his or her family and friends).   The factors present in the suicide figures for older people, however, appear to be related to loneliness and isolation.   Traditional meeting places such as the local pub, or the creamery, are not frequented to the extent that was normal in times gone by – the creameries have largely ceased to exist, and the number of pubs – particularly in rural areas – has been drastically reduced as a result of the introduction of more stringent drink/driving laws and the consequent lack of transport to and from the pub.  (I’m not for a moment suggesting that drink/driving laws are not good, and necessary – but has sufficient thinking gone into their enforcement?)   Another meeting place was the post-office – many of which have now been closed in the interests of ‘efficiency’ and ‘cost-cutting’, but thereby causing increased isolation.  And the new practice of leaving post at a collection point instead of the postman trudging his way up to an off-the-road house means that the interaction of the postman and the house resident is no longer possible.
So much for ‘progress’!    What of the deteriorating quality of life for those affected by all of these changes?