I’m not always comfortable about drawing comparisons between two apparently disparate subjects or events, and even as I try to do just that, I accept that others reading this might be equally as uncomfortable with the point I’m attempting to make.
In writing this, I’m also not trying to lessen in any way the impact of recent events in Paris because it is, without question, shocking, upsetting and very worrying that 129 innocent people were murdered while they were enjoying the sort of things we all like to do every weekend – going out for a meal, a drink, to a concert or to a football match.
My thought when these tragedies happen is always ‘there but for the grace of God.’
I can also understand the anger and desire for revenge that comes in the wake of such terrible events, though the rush to find a convenient scapegoat always dismays and worries me in equal measure. History is littered with catastrophic examples of what happens when a religion, race or group of people are universally blamed for things that are clearly not their fault. I’d like to think we – and I mean people and society in general – have learned lessons from the past, but I’m not altogether optimistic about that.
That is a discussion for another day, perhaps. Today I just wanted to make this observation.
- In 2014, no-one died in the United Kingdom as a result of a terrorist attack.
- In 2014, 4,623 men in the United Kingdom took their own life. That equates to over 12 men every day – one man every two hours. Most of those men were between the ages of 18-45.
Now if those figures haven’t shocked, upset or worried you, then I’m not sure there’s much point in you reading any further.
I have heard it said many times before on radio or television that suicide is the biggest single cause of death amongst men between the ages of 18-45 in the UK, but seeing those figures written down absolutely shocks me.
I’m sure we all know, either directly or indirectly, people who have been affected by suicide, either as a victim or as someone who is left asking why and wondering if there was more they could or should have done to help prevent it.
I don’t know how it feels when you get to the stage where you believe that your best option is to take your own life, nor do I know how the family and friends of someone who has done so feel in the days and weeks and months and years afterwards.
My only thought, again, is ‘there but for the grace of God.’
I’m not sure I have a point to make. Maybe it’s just a series of questions swirling about in my head.
- Why are we not outraged by this killer that lurks within our society and claims 12 innocent victims every single day of year?
- Why are we not demanding that our government takes action to tackle this in the form of proper investment across a whole range of agencies and initiatives designed to offer help and hope to those most at risk, and to try and lower this terrible death toll?
- What can we do, as individuals, communities and as countries to help people who need it most, and when they need help most?
As I said already, I don’t want to downplay what happened in Paris, or lessen the impact that it has had, primarily on the families and friends of the victims, but also on all of us. The loss of one life is a terrible tragedy, never mind 129.
But it strikes me that our fear of terror (an Orwellian phrase if ever there was one), our desire for revenge – which might make sensationalist headlines and ‘good’ TV but which doesn’t appear to solve anything – our rush to blame the innocent and our willingness to accept an erosion of our freedoms in the name of security, is all so misguided and ultimately futile.
The most powerful nation on earth has waged a ‘war on terror’ for over 14 years now and I don’t see the world being a better place or the ‘terror’ having been defeated. Why is that going to change now that France has joined the war or that the British government is desperate to do so?
If only we could channel some of that energy, anger, outrage or even demand for action into tackling something as devastating and deadly as suicide then maybe, just maybe, lives might be saved and the world would be a better place for those families who, otherwise, have to deal with the heartbreaking aftermath of losing a loved one so needlessly.