Addressing mourners at the funeral Mass of 15-year-old Chloe Kinsella in St Munchin’s Church, Limerick, Fr Pat Seaver said: “All of us were anxious not to glamorise Chloe’s funeral service. Her death is tragic and it follows in the wake of two similar deaths of students of St Nessan’s during the summer holidays. We do not want any more tragedies. Life is for living, especially for young people, especially for 15-year-olds.”
Fr Seaver, whose sermon was written in consultation with Chloe’s parents, Kevin and Shirley, and Eugene O’Brien, the headmaster at St Nessan’s Community College, Limerick, said they wanted to highlight the fact that Chloe’s death was not an individual case, but had “come after two more”, highlighting the danger of copycat actions.
He said Chloe, from Kileely, would have known the other two students in question, because it was a small school “and they’d all know each other”.
Fr Seaver said there was a “danger of hype” following a death such as that of Chloe, whose body was recovered from the River Shannon on Friday, six days after she went missing.
He told the congregation about a guidance teacher in Cork who, following the suicide of a Junior Cert student, sought reaction from fifth and sixth-year students at the school. Many saw it as almost heroic.
“Almost half of the students wrote something like the following: ‘What a great way to go’, ‘I’d like to have the courage to do the same’.
“And this highlights a huge danger, when young people see this emotional, local, and national drama played out before hundreds and thousands of people, including family, the entire school, everybody in the neighbourhood, and even on TV and in all of the newspapers, even on the front page.
“The problem is that it can lead to a copycat situation. So in this sermon, we decided to focus on God’s gift of life — life to be lived to the full. And we all agreed that it would focus on the life that our young people live.”
Psychotherapist and parenting expert John Sharry, author of Coping with Depression in Teenagers, said there was a danger that some of the reporting around suicide “can inadvertently present suicide as a legitimate, or even heroic choice for young people in distress”.
Suicide prevention programmes in the US showed that raising the subject “is a delicate conversation to get right with young people”, said Dr Sharry.
“Prevention should largely focus on positive mental health and equipping your children to deal with distress appropriately,” he said.
Fr Seaver said Chloe was lucky to have had as her parents “two very fine, loving people”.
Dr Sharry said when discussing suicide with children, parents should emphasise how serious and irreversible it is and what harm it does to a family, the community, and society.
Mourners at St Munchin’s were led by Chloe’s parents, her three sisters, and four brothers.
Hundreds followed the cortege as it made its way through the city to Mount St Oliver cemetery, where Chloe was laid to rest alongside another sister, Sophie, who died in 2004, aged three, from a heart condition.