Mental health expert commends Lisnaskea priest’s book on suicide

Fr Brendan Book Signing

Fr Brendan McManus discusses his new book with Johny McBrien of McBrien’s Newsagents, Lisnaskea.

A LEADING figure in suicide awareness has told an invited audience that psychiatry needs to accept that it can neither prevent nor reliably predict suicide.

“When someone dies by suicide we ask: ‘why did it happen?’ And we need to say to each other that we do not know and we never know.”


Professor Jim Lucey, psychiatrist and medical director of St Patrick’s Hospital, Dublin was the guest speaker at the Dublin launch of the book by  Lisnaskea-born Jesuit priest, Fr Brendan McManus, “Redemption Road, Grieving on the Camino.”

It was inspired by the death by suicide of his brother, Donal.

Dr Lucey revealed that he read many suicide notes: “They don’t enlighten us either. The dead don’t leave any answers.”

“What we can say”, he went on, “is that people who take their own lives are in mental distress and have mental health needs, and we believe they could be helped if they had the mental health services”.

Fr McManus realised that that he was still in deep turmoil and pain over what had happened in his case, and decided to walk the toughest 500 miles of the Camino, ‘alone and on foot’, carrying Donal’s Barcelona football shirt in his rucksack.

Professor Lucey described  Brendan’s book as, ‘beautiful’ and ‘authentic’.

He said the challenge of mental health today was to have it discussed openly and truthfully, and Brendan had done just that in his book.


He  startled his audience when he stated that, every 18 days, an 18-year-old in Ireland takes their own life.

“This is a huge problem and challenge for the Irish people, one that we have to address by talking openly, as Brendan has done, about suicide and recovery.”

He described a proposal not to record death by suicide on a death certificate as ‘a folly’.

Referring to Fr McManus’ book, he noted that Brendan felt his brother was failed by psychiatry, that ‘he was drowning in a sea of lifeguards’, as Brendan put it.

He added: “As well as acknowledging this (what Fr Brendan said), psychiatrists have to face the challenge Brendan poses.

“His experience can’t be denied, and psychiatry needs to accept that it can neither prevent nor reliably predict suicide.”

He said that, while this was a relief to psychiatrists, ‘ it’s something we’ve not said enough for fear of presenting us as ineffectual in this area’.

At the same time, Dr Lucey said it had to be borne in mind that mental distress and disorder are highly treatable.

“We need to open up our health services and make them more available to people. It’s a national shame that this is not the case,” he said.

He said modern psychiatry respected the faith in God which was so valuable to Fr Brendan’s own coming to terms with Donal’s death.

His book is in its second printing and has received much publicity. After Fr Brendan’s interview on RTE Radio 1, their phone lines were jammed, and Console, the suicide awareness charity were able to help one young person who was in serious distress.

Fr Brendan spoke about is Camino walk, and thanked all who had helped him on his journey of recovery including his publishers, Orpen Press.

His book is available in Eason’s, Enniskillen and McBrien’s Newsagency, Lisnaskea. All proceeds go to Console.

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Fr Brendan McManus speaks out on his brother's death ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day.


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