Hello my friend,
I’ve been thinking a lot about stigma lately in relation to the work I do coaching women who’ve lost their spouses to suicide. My thoughts are specifically about the stigma toward those who attempt suicide, who die by suicide, and who’ve lost a loved one to suicide. There seems to be a pervasive belief system in our culture that cause behaviors of distrust, stereotyping, shunning, and avoidance toward those affected by suicide, as is described in one editorial by the Centre for Suicide Prevention.
Each of these behaviors came through as I went through my own loss and interestingly enough, I have participated in some of these as well. None of us are immune to stigma – feeling it thrust upon us by others or by ourselves, and projecting it onto others. However, I have become more aware of it now than ever and make every attempt to stay out of the perpetuation of stigmatization.
Awareness is the first step we ALL must take.
Non-judgment is the second.
So, what is stigma exactly?
We all have a general idea and feeling about it, but I think it’s important to see exactly how it is defined to help us truly understand the impact that perpetuating stigma has.
The definition I found is a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.
That definition then led me to look at the definition of disgrace. Disgrace is defined as loss of reputation or respect, especially as the result of a dishonorable action.
Combining these definitions give us a clear picture of what happens when we put it into the context of persons affected in any direction by suicide. There is a mark of disgrace or loss of respect due to the association with a dishonorable action, circumstance, quality or person.
I certainly have felt this as a result of my own thoughts about myself, what others have said and done, and what society conveys through “cultural norms”.
Some of the [false] beliefs and statements we may have about suicide that perpetuate the stigma are:
“Suicide is selfish, cowardly and wrong.”
“People who take their own lives didn’t love those they left behind.”
“People who die by suicide don’t think about the effect on others.”
“Those who lost a loved one to suicide are responsible, didn’t do enough, should have known, could have done something to prevent it.”
“She must have done something to cause him to do that.”
“The attempt at suicide was an effort to get attention.”
“Suicide runs in the family.”
Just reading these bring up so many feelings of rejection, despair, guilt, shame and distrust. Imagine the effect these have on the person saying them, hearing them from others and thinking them in his/her own mind over and over. These statements become fact in our minds and create negative outcomes in every direction.
In an effort to create more awareness and non-judgment, the questions I want everyone of us to consider are the following:
I believe when we ask these questions and give ourselves permission to step outside of the box of the “cultural norms” we will begin to find new ways of thinking that bring compassion, love and understanding. We will begin to see that we are more connected than we are separate, that we are more similar than different, that we can help one another by seeking to understand rather than judge.
It is my wish and my request for you today to find it in your heart to let go of the fear and judgment of yourself and others, and find love, understanding and acceptance instead.
Stigma is perpetuated by the incorrect assumption that the beliefs we hold are truth. Reconsider. Take a step back. Look inside for the soulful, compassionate answers that live inside of you.
If you need help, there are people who are willing and able to do so without judgment. If you don’t find it right away, keep looking. We’re here.
With love, appreciation and acceptance,
P.S. You can opt out of the belief in the stigma! You can find acceptance and compassion. All you have to do is decide to take the next step and reach out.
It’s a process.
It’s not always easy, but you can do hard things.
It’s extremely revealing. It’s ultimately empowering.
Join me for a free empowerment session so we can talk about what’s going on for you and how we can work together to get you where you want to be and beyond!
It is SO worth it! AND so are YOU!