Suicide Awareness Month - Stigma




Stigma is any attitude, belief or behavior that discriminates against people There’s been a stigma toward substance abuse and mental health for years which is slowly changing. Stigma has attached shame and embarrassment to something that should be (in my opinion) looked upon with compassion and understanding. This is why it's not always easy for someone to ask for help, they fear judgement which holds them back from getting the help they need.


Suicide carries the same stigma. When someone loses a loved one to suicide, the last thing we need to feel is shame or embarrassment. We need compassion and understanding. The death is not the result of an accident or disease or violence, it was a choice - there’s no way around that fact. It hurts like hell knowing that your loved one chose to leave you and everyone else behind. That’s one of the main reasons I try to help people understand that it's usually an act of desperation when the person has become so hopeless they see no other option. It feels personal, but it's not. I’ve heard a lot of people say that the person in their life thought everyone would be better off without them (Kev said this often).


So what can we do to lessen the stigma against mental health/suicide? I think the most important thing is to change the way we talk about it, and the words we use to describe it. (I will cover language to use for substance abuse in another post.) Did you know the term “committed suicide” comes from a time in history when it was a crime to kill yourself? So every time someone uses that word “committed” in front of the word “suicide” they are implying that the person committed a crime.


I think I slipped up and used that word once when talking about Keven. When I heard it come out of my mouth I felt like I’d said the “F” word in front of my aunt (who’s a nun) . It shocked me to hear myself say it. Instead I say, “Keven took his life” or “Keven ended his life”. “Died by suicide” is another way of saying it that is less offensive. Please don’t feel bad if you’ve used that term, it's part of our everyday language that most people don’t think about (until it affects them personally). Now you will be aware next time the topic comes up.

There are other things we can (and hopefully will) do to lessen the stigma. This list of nine things comes from NAMI’s (National Alliance for Mental Illness) website, an excellent resource that everyone should be aware of. Here is the full article that expands on the points below:

  1. Talk Openly About Mental Health. ...

  2. Educate Yourself and Others. ...

  3. Be Conscious of Language. ...

  4. Encourage Equality Between Physical and Mental Illness. ...

  5. Show Compassion for Those with Mental Illness. ...

  6. Choose Empowerment Over Shame. ...

  7. Be Honest About Treatment.

  8. Let The Media Know When They’re Being Stigmatizing

  9. Don’t Harbor Self-Stigma

Today is the last day of Suicide Awareness Month - I hope the last four posts have been helpful in some way. Of course for me, every day is suicide awareness day because one of my goals is to find ways to prevent people from getting to that desperate place and to support those who have lost someone.

IN OTHER NEWS - if you've never signed up to receive my weekly email, please do! It's just a simple newsletter that announces I have a new blog post up (for those who don’t follow me on social media) and sometimes contains tidbits of news on my personal life or the book I’m writing. For example - have you signed up to put your name in the hat to win a copy of the book “The Epiphanies Project”? It's the book that I, along with 19 others from my writing group, put together with essays on specific epiphanies we’ve had.

It hits Amazon tomorrow and today is the LAST DAY TO PUT YOUR NAME IN THE HAT! I’m giving away two copies of the book and so far not many people have entered. Anyone who subscribes to my newsletter today will automatically be put in the hat (and yes, I’m using a real hat - one of Keven’s fedoras, and will film myself picking the name tomorrow!) Just send me an email with the word "Book" in the subject line to enter!