Sadly during my life I have lost one good friend to suicide and helped prevent the same end for another person I cared about. Its never as simple as many want to suggest to prevent people taking their own lives. Nor is it easy to pinpoint the reasons that they develop the self-destructive ideation. The fact that mental illnesses like clinical depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia have a high suicide rates and that these are all organic disorders of the brain should stop people seeking to attribute external triggers like sexual abuse all of the blame for the subsequent death of these unfortunate individuals. Don’t get me wrong I am not seeking to make excuses for or to downplay the pernicious evil any kind of sexual abuse but to use the suicide of the mentally ill as a tool to emphasise the gravity of the abuse is likely to ignore the fact that sexual predators do not choose their victims at random.
Thus I find the latest piece from the Age’s senior writer Jo Chandler both incredibly patronising and disingenuously misrepresenting the nature of mental illnesses like schizophrenia. (my bold in quote)
It emerged he had been abused.
”And then he told me that if I told a soul he would kill himself.”
The roller-coaster of illness, madness, anger, absence and homecomings continued, punctuated by suicide attempts. Ms Watson gradually pieced together the story – it was not until very late that Peter confided the identity of his attacker – and tried to get psychiatric help for her son.
Then one day in March 1999 he was finally given a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia. He told the medical staff he was just going to move his car. He was never seen again. He was 24.
”I never stopped looking,” Helen Watson says. For six years she was left wondering what became of him, though she was almost certain he was dead.
In fact his body was found hanging in a boat shed in Aspendale late in 1999. Police couldn’t put a name to it, and he was buried as a John Doe.
But the case preyed on one of the police officers, Rod Owen. When some new fingerprint technology arrived, he tried it out on the records from the body in the boatshed, and came up with a match. Ms Watson finally got the knock at the door she had wished for and dreaded.
There is no doubt that many people who are abused carry the scars for the rest of their lives and I for one thank God that I am an atheist who will never let the God-botherers anywhere near my children not because I am worried about sexual abuse but because I don’t want my children to develop an irrational belief in the supernatural. that said I have my doubts that the recently announced inquiry into priestly abuse of children in Victoria will achieve anything of substance. Of course there are those like our regular commentator Craigy who will both welcome the piece of political show and tell and denounce its impotence. My problems with any of this sort of thing is the inherent difficulty in proving the relevant allegations because they essentially boil down to verbal conflict between the accuser and the accused with almost no evidence other than the competing testimonies. A legal can of worms in other words. Add to that the time between the alleged abuse and those crimes being reported (if they have been reported at all) and any possibility of justice seen to be done becomes rather remote.
Of course none of this matters to the author of this rather dull attempt at pulling the heat strings of the Age’s readers. Jo Chandler clearly does not care about those with self-destructive mental illness who would be just as likely to self harm even if every priest was taken out and made to emulate the fate of their saviour and every building and church entity were reduced to rubble. The underlying subtext here is just the same as that which were evident in Chandler’s sneering piece about Mary Mckillop Ah well it makes a change from the last few pieces from the Sandpit’s favourite senior writer at the Age where she has just rehashed the opinions of Fuzzy Wuzzy bloggers about their dysfunctional democracy. Still it makes me wonder just why she keeps her job at the Age and what qualifies anyone to be a “senior” writer for Fairfax.
- Schizophrenia: 100 years of bad treatment
- PTSD Mediates the Relationship Between Trauma and Mental Health
- Less Support for Common Mental Illnesses’?
- Mental illness means higher risk of physical problems
- The Medical Minute: Sexual abuse can have long-term effects
- Mental Illness Tied to Higher Rates of Physical Problems
- California priest flees to Ireland on eve of testimony in sex-abuse trial
- Australian Police Probe Suicides of Church’s Sexual Abuse Victims
- Bowen Island man jailed for sexual abuse
- Well, Cardinal Pell?
- Sexual Abuse: What Finally Made It ‘Ok To Tell’
- Inquiry to examine handling of abuse complaints
- Bipolar Disorder
- I Hate Having Bipolar Disorder
- Another Rant About How the Mentally Ill Are Treated in This Country
- PTSD from Emotional Abuse
- Lets Talk Suicide )
- Living with Bipolar Disorder.
- Bipolar Disorder
- Symposium on Early Onset Bipolar Disorder on Monday, April 23th
- You: Best of Bipolar Bites and Breaking Bipolar Blogs
- Being diagnosed, part 1 – schizoaffective disorder
- What is normal?
- Why Do High-Risk Youths Commit Suicide?
- Researchers ID Genes That May Determine Mental Illness
- Our Lady of Suicidal Ideation
- The Geezer’s Dirty Dozen on Suicide Risk Assessment
- Youth suicide rates rising among Canadian girls
- Lane Laymon, 14, Death by Suicide