Writing this article after returning from the funerals in Cavan mightn’t be the right time but then again it;s my way of processing what i just experienced. The sight of five coffins with pictures of people that I knew well at one stage of my life is not one that I will ever forget.
The reporting of this very sad tragedy and the dialogue surrounding it since Monday is what I’d like to focus on for a minute. I understand the need for people to look for answers and maybe find an explanation for this unspeakable act of violence. If we can get answers then we can get closure or at least feel a little safer in our skins. We are very uncomfortable with the notion that a person who seems normal could do such an act and if we can make someone out to be the evil one then in some way it makes sense.
It’s a mental health issue in that, for reasons that we may never know Alan felt that he was not able to deal with whatever troubles he had. The next step however, the action of killing his wife and kids that he loved dearly are the actions of a man who had lost his own sense of reality. This did not happen just because he was depressed or anxious. It had moved far beyond that into the realm of the unexplainable. I will never know what was going through Alan’s mind that night but I do know that he was in unspeakable pain.
The danger of some of the reporting and other articles I read this week is that people who have mental health issues in some way feel they are linked to this tragedy. In an era when we are working hard to remove the stigma of mental illness, an incident like this can muddy the waters and leave people feeling vulnerable. Obviously not every person who has a mental health issue will resort to violence but similarly not every person who abuses or engages in violent acts has a mental health problem.
One article talked about the hidden pain that Clodagh had experienced in her home life without that writer knowing anything about their situation. Yes Clodagh was her name and the Clodagh I knew was lovely and strong and had to deal with lots of trials in her life. To try and link this tragedy with the plight of women who live in abusive marriages or relationships is just lazy journalism. The reason why people focused on Alan Hawe was not to ignore Clodagh but to try and explain how this could happen. At all stages we knew who the victims and perpetrator were.
The mind is a fragile thing and we should all do what we can to keep as healthy as we can. There is a need for society to keep the topic of mental health on the agenda and in an earlier blog I mentioned that the government should be doing more to provide the services and space for people who are suffering and feel they have no voice. It is time now to take this tragedy off the front pages and let two broken families grieve and come to terms with their loss. The dignity of the two families that I witnessed this evening gives me hope.
May they rest in peace.