Here’s Why I Openly Talk About Suicide
In a previous post, I discussed the connections of being a clinician and experiencing a suicide loss. Two people in my life died by suicide. And, without naming names, I have had multiple loved ones express suicidal ideation, be involuntarily held for suicidal ideation at the hospital, and be hospitalized from the result of a suicide attempt.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Each year, over 42,000 people die by suicide. For every suicide death, there are 25 suicide attempts. (source)
It is estimated that for every suicide there are is 6 people who grieve the loss. Some suicidologists believe this is a conservative estimate. Based on this average, it is estimated that 6 million people in the United States have experienced a suicide loss in the last 25 years. (source)
The biggest barrier to preventing suicide is not talking about it. I truly believe that.
I used to be one of those people who believed talking about suicide increases the risk for suicide, that somehow talking about suicide plants a seed and encourages others to consider suicide. This is not true. In fact, talking openly about suicide decreases the risk for suicide.
I am very vocal in my personal life about suicide prevention and my personal experiences with suicide loss. I truly believe that talking about suicide is essential for decreasing suicide risk, validating the experiences of people struggling with suicide, and encouraging people to seek help.
Before my own experience with suicide loss, I had the belief that folks who die from suicide are selfish, shameful, weak, sinful. This is the stigma attached to suicide, and we are taught this stigma our entire lives through social messaging. As a result, we internalize this suicide stigma. For those of us who do not have suicide ideation, it causes us to view others with suicidal ideation and others who pass away from suicide with judgement. For those who have suicidal ideation, this internalization of the stigma increases the ideation and deters folks from seeking help.
When a close friend passed away from suicide, this stigma came up for me. I’d been taught that folks who die from suicide are selfish and weak, but I didn’t believe my friend was selfish or weak. I struggled often with what I’d been taught and what I believed.
One way I have dealt with de-stigmatizing suicide has been by talking about suicide openly without fear, shame, or blame.
Talking about suicide…
…decreases suicide risk.
…decreases suicide stigma.
…eliminates tendency to shame and blame folks experiencing suicidal ideation/folks who passed away by suicide.
…increases possibility for human connection, and, by extension, human compassion.
…increases the likelihood folks experiencing suicidal ideation reach out for help.
…normalizes feelings of suicide.
…normalizes the personal experiences of folks struggling with suicide and mental health.
…makes you a support person for loved ones in your life whom you might not realize are struggling with suicide.
…can be incredibly healing for folks who have suicide loss (as is in my case!)
…CAN SAVE THE LIFE OF ONE OF YOUR LOVED ONES. CAN SAVE THE LIFE OF A STRANGER. CAN SAVE A LIFE.
Stigma is shame. Shame is silence. Silence hurts us all.
Suicide prevention begins with talking about it.
I will never stop talking about it.