A conversation this morning brought news of another suicide of a young man in his mid-20s. Perhaps such tragedies were as common in the past, but in a country where suicide might mean that a person was not granted a proper funeral, people simply did not talk about what had taken place.
Officiating at funerals that are amongst the most painful that can be imagined, there is a sense of complete bewilderment, there are no words that can give meaning or purpose or comfort. There are no positive things to be said, other than that the Gospels show a Jesus who share human grief.
A Catholic colleague, taking part with me in a funeral ceremony after a very tragic death shook his head sadly. “I don’t understand why these things are happening. We are living through the best times and yet here we are. The only explanation I can find is the suggestion that there has been a loss of male identity”.
I wasn’t sure what he meant, he would be very conservative and very anti-feminist and I did not want to find grounds for disagreement. But he expanded, “Men don’t have a clear role anymore”.
I think I agreed with him, but I wasn’t sure how it would make a difference our awful level of tragedies.
The BBC last evening carried a story from Australia about the Men’s Shed Movement. If any English-speaking country has an image of red-blooded maleness, it must be Australia. Yet even there, where male identity would still be strong there are serious problems of male depression and suicide – of 2,000 suicides in Australia each year, 80% are men.
The Men’s Shed movement has over 200 sheds, where mostly older men gather. It was encouraging to read that it had been a church initiative, that it was possible to do something more than just wring our hands and feel at a loss.
The challenge would be to translate the the Men’s Shed model into something appropriate for a younger generation.