What sort of person thinks it’s acceptable to be flippant about suicide? This ultimate act of self-harm blights families up and down the country and is no respecter of class, gender, religious or cultural background or age. Unless you're a psychopath, suicide is no more a subject to be mocked than cot death or genocide.
Ian Richard Peregrine Liddell-Grainger
During the recent Westminster debate on the Brexit Bill the SNP Leader in the Commons, Ian Blackford, asked the Speaker, John Bercow, what options were available for the devolved administrations. Tory MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset, Ian Richard Peregrine Liddell-Grainger, called out: ‘Suicide.’
This casual use of such an emotive term is an insult to people dying in appalling circumstances and is symptomatic of how far society still has to go to remove the stigma surrounding mental health. Liddell-Grainger’s gibe, albeit within the context of an off-the-cuff remark during a heated debate, is all the more crass when you consider this. England’s scenic West Country, location of his constituency, is disproportionately affected by suicides. Between 2014 and 2016 there were 15 suicides for every 100,000 people living in Taunton Deane in Somerset - one of the highest rates in England, and way higher than the national average. Across England 14,277 people took their own lives over the same three year period - around 10 for every 100,000 people in the country. (Somerset Live)
You suspect Liddell-Grainger made a cack-handed attempt to belittle those MPs speaking for Scotland’s embattled Parliament rather than intentionally denigrating mental illness. In fact, he was quick to backtrack by insisting, as a former Territorial Army major, he would never stigmatise anyone with mental health conditions (according to Commodore Andrew Cameron, chief executive of the veteran support charity Combat Stress, one-fifth of all Forces veterans were likely to need help for some form of mental illness and that it could take more than a decade before symptoms presented themselves.)
If Liddell-Grainger had simply blurted out his remark in the fiery atmosphere of a Commons exchange, perhaps some form of apology would be in order. Instead he is now claiming he was misquoted, having actually said ‘political suicide.’ But listening back to the recording (see link below) it’s clear he said nothing of the kind. The two-syllable word ‘suicide’ is audible, and you can tell by the reactions of those on the opposition benches this is all that was said. If Liddell-Grainger claims he used seven syllables he is now compounding his monstrous behaviour by lying through his teeth about it.
SomersetLive website - with video of actual incident
I previously blogged about TV ‘entertainer’ Jeremy Clarkson and his abhorrent remarks about ‘Johnny Suicides’ being such a nuisance for delaying train journeys. You can only expect someone in his position to have a sense of empathy inversely proportional to his ego. Sitting on a personal fortune of £30 million for presenting TV shows about metal objects that go fast undoubtedly places all the real-life dramas faced by the rest of the populace in some sort of weirdly remote perspective.
Whether either public figure pleads their remarks were clearly made in the context of banter and not intended to actually belittle suicide, was either example remotely funny? No. In joking about something that is the biggest killer of male under-45s in the UK they simply perpetuate the stigmatisation, adding to the sense of isolation and worthlessness felt by people in genuine distress. The often inexplicable despair that brings someone to this brink and then propels them beyond afflicts families every day, including my own very recently. On top of the living nightmare of the aftermath of the act, we do not deserve our pain to be heightened by the loved ones we have lost being laughed about.