BY Ian Dunn | September 22 2017 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Highland priest begs politicians to tackle suicide epidemic

Fr James Bell appeals for help at funeral of young mum of four

An Inverness priest has made an urgent appeal for politicians to tackle the scourge of suicide, at the funeral of a young mother of four who took her own life.

Margaret MacNeil, 39, lived on the same street as St Mary’s Church in Inverness. Parish priest Fr James Bell said shock at the news of her death gave way ‘to acknowledgement that this was a tragedy unfolding.’

“Although troubled by many anxieties, Margaret was always a loving and thoughtful mother,” he said. “But unbeknown to some of us, Margaret was deeply troubled; she was caught up in a despairing spiral from which she saw no hope. Today we are ­living through the anguish and sorrow.”

Fr Bell said Margaret’s ­daughter Nicola wanted people to be made more aware of the circumstances surrounding suicide, its personal impact, and the need for caring intervention.

“This struck a deep chord with me, as too frequently I have been officiating at similar funerals, more than the fingers of my hands, within my ministry,” he said.


Highest rates

“Within the United Kingdom, approximately 6,000 people die by suicide every year,” Fr Bell said. “Here in the Highlands of Scotland we have a very high incidence, one of the highest rates in Scotland.

“One has only to look at the statistics: too many people, so many families, are being damaged by the failure of the local health care system to cope with the health, and other issues, that surround suicide.”

Fr Bell said despite this horror he saw a ‘glimmer of hope.’

“If only our elected ­representatives, Highland Council and Scottish assembly members would address the issue,” he said.

“Elsewhere, in NHS Merseyside, a trust-wide clinical policy of ‘Zero Suicide’ is being implemented. This is a programme that takes the view that suicide should be regarded as avoidable death, which is both preventable and amenable to care.

“There is a tender humility running through much of this programme calling for a multi-disciplinary approach, yet co-ordinated and led by clinical practitioners.”

He urged ‘our own Highland clinicians, policy-makers and all involved in the care of the vulnerable’ to think afresh.

“This is a safeguarding issue and all vulnerable adults need the maximum protection and care that our society can provide,” he said.


Love of God

“We all probably feel some responsibility for this sad occasion,” Fr Bell said at the funeral, “but the extent which every death reminds us of our own mortality also helps us to realise that we are related one to another within the Love of God. May we encourage each other day by day, as St Paul reminds us.

“Each of us has our time to prepare, to make of our lives something beautiful and true, encouraging each other in the world of God’s creating, and in this community of Faith, the Catholic Church.”



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