The Stigma of Suicide : Ending the Silence

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trader32176
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Joined: Fri Jun 26, 2020 5:22 am

The Stigma of Suicide : Ending the Silence

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"Since the beginning of time, suicide has been treated as a stigma, with victims being called 'selfish' and 'choosing the easy way out.' I am proud of the team and scientific advisors of Therapeutic Solutions International who have initiated the process of using solid science to establish suicide as an immunological disease," said Kalina O'Connor.

"Suicide has historically been treated as a stigma. With increasing advancement of science, we realize it is a biological abnormality and should be addressed the same way we address other conditions" said Timothy Dixon.



The Stigma of Suicide: Ending the Silence

https://letstalkstigma.org/the-stigma-o ... e-silence/


One person dies by suicide every five hours in New York State and suicide is the state’s 12th leading cause of death.

“Suicide is the ultimate outcome of stigma,” said Jessica C. Pirro, LMSW, Chief Executive Officer, Crisis Services and Vice-Chair of the Erie County Anti-Stigma Coalition.

Stigma can affect individuals with mental health issues who struggle to find support and compassion. Stigma can also impact suicide loss survivors who have lost loved ones to suicide and feel guilty or embarrassed about the cause of their death.

“We are working to support individuals with mental health struggles and families who are suicide loss survivors,” Pirro said.

Suicide is not easy to talk about. Widespread stigma creates fear and inhibits people from speaking out. However, talking about suicide reduces the stigma and encourages people to seek help and share their stories. Pirro says we need to normalize safe conversations and understand that a person who attempts suicide could not get the help they needed.

Lisa Boehringer is a suicide loss survivor whose sister died by suicide 25 years ago. She describes her experience following her sister’s death.

“People assumed that there was something wrong with my family, my sister must have been ‘crazy’ or on drugs,” Boehringer said. “We need to get the point of taking care of our mental health just like we take care of physical health.”



One person dies by suicide every five hours in New York State and suicide is the state’s 12th leading cause of death.

“We are working to support individuals with mental health struggles and families who are suicide loss survivors,” Pirro said.

Suicide is not easy to talk about. Widespread stigma creates fear and inhibits people from speaking out. However, talking about suicide reduces the stigma and encourages people to seek help and share their stories. Pirro says we need to normalize safe conversations and understand that a person who attempts suicide could not get the help they needed.

Lisa Boehringer is a suicide loss survivor whose sister died by suicide 25 years ago. She describes her experience following her sister’s death.

“People assumed that there was something wrong with my family, my sister must have been ‘crazy’ or on drugs,” Boehringer said. “We need to get the point of taking care of our mental health just like we take care of physical health.”

For several years, Boehringer stayed silent about her sister’s death.

Now she is working to teach people that it’s ok to talk about it, and get the message out into the community.

“Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, people should not be embarrassed to reach out,” Boehringer said. “There is always support and help if you are struggling.”

Boehringer works as a licensed clinical social worker and is a Crisis Prevention and Response Coordinator with the Buffalo Schools.

According to Pirro, we should not be afraid to speak up about suicide and mental illness or to seek out treatment for an individual who is in need. There is a disease behind it and it’s important to acknowledge that someone in suicidal crisis is overcome with pain and their decision is to end the pain.

“Suicide loss survivors struggle greatly during their moments of grief. They are questioning why, may feel guilty and often feel responsible,” Pirro said.

Seeking to understand why suicide occurs is also an important step in eliminating stigma. Crisis Services and other stakeholder groups are studying data from suicide investigations in Erie County with the goal of finding patterns or trends and ultimately prevent suicide deaths. This is a project of the Suicide Prevention Center of New York with a grant from the New York State Health Foundation.

There are many other efforts underway in our community to prevent suicide, eliminate stigma and provide help to individuals and families in crisis.

Ten area teachers participated in a four-part workshop designed to certify them as “Suicide Safety for School Staff Trainers.” The Suicide Prevention Coalition has already trained 3,831 Erie County school personnel in this Suicide Safety for School program. Members of the Anti-Stigma Coalition also sponsor on-going trainings and seminars to educate people about mental illness.

A new men’s mental health public service announcement produced by Crisis Services and the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Erie County, will encourage men to speak up and ask for help. The rate of suicide is highest in middle age white men and in 2017, men died by suicide 3.54 times more often than women.

The Emergency Outreach Program is the mobile unit of Erie County Medical Center’s Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program (CPEP). Crisis teams are sent to meet individuals who are experiencing suicidal tendencies and provide them the services they need in order to remain safely in the community

The annual Out of the Darkness Walk presented by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) provides a space to honor lost loved ones and to give people the courage to open up about their own struggles. It continues to change our culture’s approach to mental health.

The Let’s Talk Stigma Campaign continues to educate the community about the importance of speaking about mental illness and providing resources for people who need help.
trader32176
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Joined: Fri Jun 26, 2020 5:22 am

Re: The Stigma of Suicide : Ending the Silence

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Suicide and Stigma

https://www.suicideinfo.ca/resource/suicideandstigma/


The taint of the stigma associated with suicide is no simple metaphor for those who are stigmatized. Many victims suffer from very real psychological scars inflicted by the hurt and shame of attempting suicide or knowing someone who has died by suicide. Misunderstanding, ignorance, and fear are at the root of stigmatization, and these factors have inflicted immense suffering on those who are in any way perceived as “not normal”.

The people who are responsible for perpetuating suicidal stigma engage in behaviors such as distrust, stereotyping, shunning, and avoidance toward those affected by suicide (Cvinar, 2005).

We in the west have a long tradition of stigmatizing people who are associated in any way with suicide. Because the scope of such an account would far exceed the pages of this particular iE, I will not expand on this detailed history at this time. Suffice it to say that the very act of killing oneself used to be a crime in some countries, and that the criminal language associated with the suicidal act endures in the lexicon. Specifically, using the phrase “to ‘commit’ suicide” equates the act with homicide or fratricide, and suggests that it is akin to “self-murder”. The non-critical and non-thinking use of this phrase preserves the implied criminality of the act.

The many myths associated with suicide have also contributed to the perseverance of stigma. Notions that people who kill themselves are “cowards” and “selfish” persist to this day, while attempters are often viewed as “attention seekers” who are not to be taken seriously. The idea that suicidality is hereditary can sometimes serve to further torture families who experience a suicidal death.

A major mandate of suicide prevention has been to dispel these myths and to educate and inform the public in an attempt to eliminate stigma.

Needless to say, this has been a long process. A cursory glimpse into the Centre for Suicide Prevention archives reveals a thirty-odd year history of pamphlets, posters, buttons, and other miscellany culled from local, national and international suicide prevention strategies. A common thread tying all of this material together is a strident call for an end to the stigma of suicide.

The International Association of Suicide Prevention (IASP) has deemed 2013’s World Suicide Prevention Day theme Stigma: A Major Barrier to suicide prevention.

Thus, our work continues and I do believe that we are making major headway. Before I comment on this progress, however, I will briefly highlight two specific groups directly associated with suicide who seem to feel the main brunt of stigmatization in order to illustrate how this stigma operates. These are the people who have lost loved ones to suicide who are commonly referred to as “survivors of suicide loss”, and those who have survived a suicide attempt, which, in the interest of clarity, we will refer to as “suicide attempt survivors”. It is very important to note that choosing these two groups by no means discounts all other possible groups affected by suicide.

Survivors of Suicide Loss

According to one recent report, at least six people are directly affected by each suicide (Maple, 2010). These people might be family members, lovers, friends, or anyone else who is impacted by the death of a loved one. These survivors are often dumbfounded by the suicide and, in an unclear state of bereavement, might ask themselves if they could have done something to prevent the death. They may wonder if they may have contributed in some way to the actions of their deceased loved one, so deep are their feelings of guilt and self-blame.

Survivors of suicide loss may wonder if they may have contributed in some way to the actions of their deceased loved one.

I should emphasize here that suicide bereavement is very different from the mourning that occurs after the natural loss of life (Cvinar, 2005). The mourning process, which is already an overwhelmingly distressful time, is further upset by the presence of stigmatization. Survivors suffer greatly from the building of what Feigelman calls the “wall of silence” by family, friends and the community at large. Because of the nature of the death there may also be an absence of caring and interest or, conversely, an unwelcome shower of unhelpful and awkward advice (2009). The majority of us just do not know how to broach the subject of suicide with the bereaved – so we try not to.

In their fragile states of mourning, survivors may have real or imagined perceptions of what the rest of us are thinking. Are we judging them or, worse, blaming them for the death? These uncertain and self-doubting thoughts add even more stress to their predicaments, and might even feed the process of self-stigmatization.

The majority of us just do not know how to broach the subject of suicide with the bereaved – so we try not to.

Some survivors may choose to deal with this painful situation through avoidance or denial. This is sometimes done through suppression and outright refusal to accept that the death has occurred. In this case, although the death was obviously a suicide, it might never be accepted as such by the survivor (Cvinar, 2005). Other possible reactions include a “geographical “solution, where remaining family members or other survivors may move to a new area to try and erase the memory of the death by starting life afresh.

Ultimately, if the grieving process in whatever form is not allowed to proceed, some survivors may inadvertently place themselves at risk for suicide. It is absolutely imperative that the bereaved seek out assistance if needed, but, unfortunately, the barrier of stigma can cause a reluctance to seek this vital help.

The good news is that if they do reach out for help, survivors have some of the most developed and connected support networks in existence today. For example, in Calgary, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) runs ongoing suicide bereavement support groups, and also put on an outstanding annual event called Survivors of Suicide Day (SOS). It is a safe, supportive, and informative forum where survivors can connect and share their experiences with one another. It is a truly inspiring annual event.

Similar support networks exist throughout North America and the world. These groups often serve to provide a crucial lifeline for survivors – one which allows them to deal with both the death and the ensuing stigma that many of them face.

Suicide Attempt Survivors

Even those of us who work in suicide prevention/postvention are sometimes confused by the distinction between those who attempt suicide and survive, and the aforementioned “survivor of suicide”. They are both “survivors,” but this ambiguity can cause stigma in its own way because of this misunderstanding.

Suicide Prevention Australia (SPA) has tried to clarify this difference by describing those who attempt but survive as “suicide attempt survivors”. This terminology is far from universal but we will use their definition for clarification purposes.

Suicide attempt survivors often face extreme stigmatization and are not taken seriously because they are viewed as simply “crying wolf”. Further, the fact that they survived the attempt suggests to many that they are not really sincere in their intent to die. In actuality, the attempter is trying to stop the psychological pain brought on by depression or other mental health issues. If their distress is not addressed after their first attempt, then there is a very strong chance that they will attempt again. This cyclical repetition of behavior might help explain why attempters are often wrongfully perceived as “seeking attention” (Witte, p.612, 2010). One statistic suggests that, with youth in particular, there may be 200+ attempts for every single suicide, but that the ultimate predictor for future suicide is a previous attempt. The fact that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior thus speaks to the importance of taking every attempt very seriously (Marcus, 1996).

A report by SPA states that dismissive attitudes are sometimes expressed by health care professionals – including emergency care personnel, physicians and nursing staff – toward patients who attempt suicide. Although adequate attention was paid to the physical consequences of the attempt, there was a near-complete failure to meet the patient’s emotional and psychological needs (Suicide Prevention Australia, 2009). Nearly all patients were given perfunctory care, but they did not receive either the true “care,” or referrals for future counselling that their tenuous state required.

Only a small proportion of suicide attempters seek formal help – Suicide Prevention Australia

Attempters need to be psychologically assessed and urged to seek followup help after they are discharged from hospital. The underlying causes of the attempt – undiagnosed depression, for example – need to be addressed in a timely manner. The same report indicated that only “A small proportion of suicide attempters seek formal help” (SPA, p.8, 2009). There must be stronger efforts made to get suicide attempt survivors assistance as soon as possible, and to reach out to them before they make successive attempts.

Curiously, attempters can also suffer the effects of stigma from others affected by suicide. In other words, even within the suicide prevention/postvention world, they can be marginalized and even shunned. To some they may symbolize a living reminder of a lost loved one, while to others, they may seem like a constant, potential death just around the corner. Others may see them as representing utter, contemptible failure.

The SPA offers some useful suggestions for how the stigmatization of these suicide attempt survivors might be obviated. Most notably, they recommend that attempters be given a much stronger voice in the “Development of treatments for suicide attempt survivors” (p.11, 2008).

Progress

As I mentioned previously, I believe wholeheartedly that the stigma of suicide is lessening. I believe that this is happening because of an increase in information, education, understanding, and awareness about suicide. Similar positive progress can be seen throughout history. For example, there was a major stigma surrounding cancer up until the mid-twentieth century, and people with AIDS faced unprecedented stigmatization in the 1980s. With the widespread communication of accurate information to the public comes a “normalizing” effect on these illnesses in the sense that anyone – even you or someone very close to you – could be afflicted.

Similar strides have been made in the field of suicide and suicide prevention, where a dialogue is emerging that is reducing the barrier of stigma on its victims.

Empirical evidence now exists that this stigma is lessening, and an increasing number of studies are also reflecting this conclusion. One encouraging study by Witte, Smith, and Joiner showed that replicating experiments and questionnaires from an earlier era in a current setting showed that attitudes toward suicide have indeed changed for the better (2010). Still, they are “cautiously optimistic” about the continued reduction of stigma.

I do not believe that suicide should be accepted or condoned, but I most certainly think that its prevalence and seriousness should be acknowledged. The more information and resources we have regarding suicide and the more openly we talk about it, the better. Hosting a larger and much more supportive conversation about suicide might prove to be an inviting forum for people who are at-risk to seek the assistance they need without fear of stigmatization. It might also make victims less fearful of the reception they will receive once they find the courage to get help, and also give them a renewed sense of hope that their “not so abnormal” needs will be met.

We are on the right track, but it goes without saying, of course, that there is much more work to do.
trader32176
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Re: The Stigma of Suicide : Ending the Silence

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5 Common Myths About Suicide Debunked

SEP. 30, 2020

By Kristen Fuller, M.D.


https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/Se ... e-Debunked

Suicide affects all people. Within the past year, about 41,000 individuals died by suicide, 1.3 million adults have attempted suicide, 2.7 million adults have had a plan to attempt suicide and 9.3 million adults have had suicidal thoughts.

Unfortunately, our society often paints suicide the way they would a prison sentence—a permanent situation that brands an individual. However, suicidal ideation is not a brand or a label, it is a sign that an individual is suffering deeply and must seek treatment. And it is falsehoods like these that can prevent people from getting the help they need to get better.

Debunking the common myths associated with suicide can help society realize the importance of helping others seek treatment and show individuals the importance of addressing their mental health challenges.

Here are some of the most common myths and facts about suicide.

Myth: Suicide only affects individuals with a mental health condition.


Fact: Many individuals with mental illness are not affected by suicidal thoughts and not all people who attempt or die by suicide have mental illness. Relationship problems and other life stressors such as criminal/legal matters, persecution, eviction/loss of home, death of a loved one, a devastating or debilitating illness, trauma, sexual abuse, rejection, and recent or impending crises are also associated with suicidal thoughts and attempts.

Myth: Once an individual is suicidal, he or she will always remain suicidal.

Fact: Active suicidal ideation is often short-term and situation-specific. Studies have shown that approximately 54% of individuals who have died by suicide did not have a diagnosable mental health disorder. And for those with mental illness, the proper treatment can help to reduce symptoms.

The act of suicide is often an attempt to control deep, painful emotions and thoughts an individual is experiencing. Once these thoughts dissipate, so will the suicidal ideation. While suicidal thoughts can return, they are not permanent. An individual with suicidal thoughts and attempts can live a long, successful life.

Myth: Most suicides happen suddenly without warning.

Fact: Warning signs—verbally or behaviorally—precede most suicides. Therefore, it’s important to learn and understand the warnings signs associated with suicide. Many individuals who are suicidal may only show warning signs to those closest to them. These loved ones may not recognize what’s going on, which is how it may seem like the suicide was sudden or without warning.

Myth: People who die by suicide are selfish and take the easy way out.


Fact:
Typically, people do not die by suicide because they do not want to live—people die by suicide because they want to end their suffering. These individuals are suffering so deeply that they feel helpless and hopeless. Individuals who experience suicidal ideations do not do so by choice. They are not simply, “thinking of themselves,” but rather they are going through a very serious mental health symptom due to either mental illness or a difficult life situation.

Myth: Talking about suicide will lead to and encourage suicide.


Fact: There is a widespread stigma associated with suicide and as a result, many people are afraid to speak about it. Talking about suicide not only reduces the stigma, but also allows individuals to seek help, rethink their opinions and share their story with others. We all need to talk more about suicide.

Debunking these common myths about suicide can hopefully allow individuals to look at suicide from a different angle—one of understanding and compassion for an individual who is internally struggling. Maybe they are struggling with a mental illness or maybe they are under extreme pressure and do not have healthy coping skills or a strong support system.

As a society, we should not be afraid to speak up about suicide, to speak up about mental illness or to seek out treatment for an individual who is in need. Eliminating the stigma starts by understanding why suicide occurs and advocating for mental health awareness within our communities. There are suicide hotlines, mental health support groups, online community resources and many mental health professionals who can help any individual who is struggling with unhealthy thoughts and emotions.



Kristen Fuller M.D. is a family medicine physician with a passion for mental health. She spends her days writing content for a well-known mental health and eating disorder treatment facility, treating patients in the Emergency Room and managing an outdoor women's blog. To read more of Dr. Fuller's work visit her Psychology Today blog and her outdoor blog, GoldenStateofMinds.
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