While attention and support for mental health and mental illness continue to grow, and positive steps are being taken in acknowledgement and support for people suffering from mild to severe issues, the stigma around suicide continues.
Suicide remains an unspoken and avoided topic in Australia, and common labels are applied to the person who ended their life; they’re selfish or they took the easy way out.
Stigma around suicide: How does it affect people?
The unfortunate side effect of this can result in people not seeking help when they need it, while those who have lived experience of suicide internalise their feelings of shame because of this perception of how they’re viewed by their peers and society.
Stigma also affects those bereaved by suicide. Research suggests that those bereaved by suicide report higher levels of rejection, shame and blame than other bereaved people. Misinformed reactions to suicide can result in avoidance and uncertainty about how to approach someone about their grief and loss. Many people bereaved by suicide find themselves avoiding the disclosure of the cause of death as a result of the anticipated stigmatised responses, which contributes to a lack of awareness in the community.
So what can we do to break down the stigma?
- Research suggests that individuals recognise suicide warnings as easily as they do for heart attacks, but there is discomfort and uncertainty about how to help. Act on those thoughts and concerns, as your help could make all the difference. If you’re worried about someone you know, call us anytime on SuicideLine Victoria 1300 651 251.
- Raise your voice. Survivors shouldn’t be expected to carry this weight by themselves so tackling stigma and prejudice around mental illness is a part we can all play.
- Examine your thought processes and your understandings. Are they right? Could you be more sensitive around mental illness stigma?
- Use your social networks to discuss suicide and mental illness openly, share content on social media, and spread the word.
If you or someone you know is struggling and want to speak to a professional counsellor, SuicideLine Victoria is available 24/7. Call us on 1300 651 251.
If it is an emergency, call 000.