Melissa Blake

Melissa Blake

Disabled and Thriving

Encore Interview: Erasing the Stigma of Suicide

How to erase the societal stigma of suicide

Posted Nov 20, 2009

This week, as National Survivors of Suicide Day approaches tomorrow, we've been exploring the impact of suicide, both on a personal and societal level. Michael Behmer, a marriage and family therapist at Vive and co-founder of Chaos to Connection, a comprehensive program designed to restore relationships between parents and their children, had this to say.

What can people do to help eliminate the stigma that surrounds suicide?
I think you would have to convince people to not run from painful experiences. Stigmas exist because there is fear to engage them and explore a remedy. There is mostly a stigma with the affected parties because they take on responsibility and believe, whether true or not, that they could have done more to offer hope to this person.

Experts always speak of the person who committed suicide, but those left behind have a tough road to travel. What are some of the typical emotions and experiences those left behind face?
Shame and regret. The shame that people feel is at a time from them believing that they could have done more to reach out to the person spiraling in hopelessness, and they blame themselves. Often, there is regret in the sense that they did not notice soon enough. People often begin to analyze their priorities and go into a place where they begin to think through what they would give now to have them back and for things to be different. This can also be the first steps of spiraling into hopelessness. There is support, and there is always light at the end of whatever tunnel you believe you're in.

What advice do you have for those who are suicidal?
There is hope. Speak to someone, even a stranger and allow others into your life or community to support you in whatever you're facing.

What advice do you have for those left behind after a loved one takes his/her life?
It is impossible to predict how you will feel in each moment. Instead, finding others to express and share your range of emotions with is essential. Talking about suicide can be avoided for generations, and until you find a voice
for you own experience, shame and fear will continue to grow in the place of health and healing.