The Stigma of Suicide
Suicide is one of the few remaining taboos in today’s society. We struggle to understand how someone can take their own life. Since childhood, people have been taught that those who are suicidal or who have completed a suicide are shameful, sinful, weak, selfish, and in some cases, some people believe suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
As of yet, there appears to be no scientific studies that can confirm that suicidal people have any of these qualities. What we do know is suicide has become not only a national concern but a worldwide concern and social stigma of suicide plays a vital role.
According to data from World Health Organization (WHO), almost one million people commit suicide per year in the world that is one suicide every 40 seconds. 60% of suicides are committed in Asia. The number of young people committing suicide and the reasons for suicide are multiplying by the day across the world. Debts, illnesses, broken relationships, failure in exams, substance abuse, war and the list goes on. Mental health professionals agree that a suicide is a cry for help that went unattended.
A recent study has reported that children who had lost a sibling or a parent to suicide and returning to the school environment have been subjected to harsh treatment by both teachers and fellow students. Responses ranged from that of a teacher informing a student that her father would be going to hell because “suicide is a sin,” to students ostracizing a student who lost her sibling by saying “stay away from her, she has suicide germs.'' (Davis, C. & Hinger; Assessing the needs of the survivors of suicide)
The stigma of suicide remains big enough to discourage people, especially the elderly, from talking about their suicidal thoughts. Some people feel that they might be labeled as weak, lacking faith, coming from bad families if they were to share about their suicidal thoughts. This stigma can be a major obstacle to people getting help. It may also prevent us from speaking openly and freely about the problem and discussing what we can do, and can lead to misunderstandings and intolerance which are barriers to change.
Any approach to prevent suicide should include the removal of blame and stigmatizing.
Many people that have taken their own lives have suffered from long term mental illness. They have been treated for years and years with little to no results. Some mental health issues are not temporary problems but long term problems that require a lifetime of medication and specialized help. It is information such as this that could help remove the stigma of suicide.
This stigma can make it more difficult for people who feel suicidal or who have lost someone to suicide. There is a great need to change public attitudes, and increase awareness and understanding about suicide as a major public health problem that is largely preventable. As national suicide awareness week prepares to end, so should the stigma of suicide.
Journal of the American Psychiatric Association
American Foundation for Suicide Awareness