The news is full of the terrible events in Cavan. I try to avoid too much of the details. The headlines tell me enough – enough to say a prayer for those who died and those who loved them who have been left reeling by what happened. I don't feel the need to know more. Indeed, I don't think it is good to know more. It is enough that I know something terrible happened. Too many details can only wound.
I heard a woman on the radio talking about it, an expert on murder/suicide. She agreed with me about it not being good for too many of the details to be made public. Not for the same reason that I thought it be kept more private, that it may in some way hurt those who see and hear about such sad things; and for the privacy of the family. She worried that too many details might spur on copycats. But she didn't say if there was anything to show that such awful happenings were influenced by hearing about them in the media.
She did say that such events were thankfully rare. They happen on average about twice a year. That is still too often, I think – being rare isn't enough; it should be a thing unheard of. But I suppose we have to take our blessings where we find them.
I thought her work must be very frustrating. Her studies have led her to identify some common features in such cases. The perpetrators are predominantly male; there is most often some history of mental illness; and they have often suffered a recent job loss or reduction in status at work. But this information doesn't help much with prediction or prevention of such occurrences. After all, half the country are men; a huge percentage of the population have had some brush with mental health issues; and, the economy being the way it is, unemployment and fewer hours at work are common.
So, as I said, it must be a frustrating area to study. She knows enough to be able to look at these cases after they have happened and say which are typical. But not enough to be able to say to the authorities: 'Go to such-and-such a house; there is a man there who is struggling. Help him now and something terrible can be stopped.'
The truly sad thing about these events is that they almost always involve families. Something happens and a previously loving husband and father does something worse than when Cain struck down Able. It only makes it sadder to think that something had snapped in the person, that in the wholeness of their health they would be more horrified by their actions than anyone, because the victims are the people they love most in the world; and that an intervention at the right moment might have prevented the whole thing.
And so I feel sorry for the perpetrator also. And I say a prayer for them as well as those they hurt. What else can I do? What else can any of us do?