The tragic death of a Maltese teenager who committed suicide after escaping from Mount Carmel Hospital made a deep impression on me. I kept thinking about it. Then I recalled several encounters I’ve had with people who had a death wish.

A few years ago, on a sunny spring afternoon, I sat reading on a bench in a public garden. A small group of children came up and talked to me. Among them was a sad-looking, nine-year-old girl who told me in a subdued tone of voice, while the others were listening, that she wanted to die, and she seemed to mean it.

After my initial shock, I ask­ed her why she wanted to die but she gave me no answer. I tried to uplift her spirits by telling her: “See what a beautiful day it is! Look at those flowers over there... how beautiful they are!”

My words made no impression on her. I looked around to see whether the children’s parents were in the area but they didn’t seem to be present. While I was pondering what to do next, the children departed.

On another occasion, a technician came to my home to repair an appliance. I struck a friendly conversation with him, during which he told me that he was in his 30s and that he didn’t mind if he died at 40. I was quite taken aback with his statement. I reminded him that he was still young and that life is worth living.

I’ve had other such encounters with people who seem to be “death-enamoured”, as the author Muriel Spark put it in one of her books.

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