Ending the Stigma of Suicide

Despite that fact that suicide claims over 100 lives each day, most people don’t feel comfortable talking about it. The news often glosses over the cause of death and obituaries don’t usually mention it. The deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain mere days apart suddenly brought light to the subject. People are finally stepping up to discuss suicide.

Over 45,000 Americans kill themselves each year. Despite this staggering statistic, people still treat suicide like a secret. The fear and misunderstanding surrounding suicide foster a general lack of action. There are major organizations fighting to cure cancer. School shootings dominate the spotlight as children and adults alike march to end the violence. People develop and promote diets to prevent and treat heart disease. Because discussing suicide requires a certain level of vulnerability and acknowledgment of depression, many people see it as somewhat taboo. Loved ones of suicide victims often feel ashamed and guilty, thinking that they could have done something to help before it was too late. Many say they should have known something was wrong, and feel guilty that they didn’t. How can anyone know that something is wrong when no one talks about it?

Another possible explanation for the stigma surrounding suicide is that people simply don’t know how to react. It’s important to recognize that suicide can reach people of all demographics. Bourdain and Spade were successful, each worth millions of dollars, and seemed generally happy. It’s shocking when a celebrity falls victim to suicide, not just because they’re well-known, but because it’s hard to imagine wanting to end your life when so many people envy it. Other celebrities have come forward and stated that they struggle with depression or have lost family members to suicide. People are beginning to share their stories. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1–800–273–8255 suddenly became flooded with calls. And it isn’t only people struggling with depression who are calling the hotline. Their loved ones are asking for help as well, trying to learn how to reach out and help.

Most suicidal people say there’s nothing anyone could do to save them, that nothing could pull them out of that frame of mind. But, if you know someone who’s struggling, it’s important to reach out. The problem is that many people don’t even know that their loved ones are contemplating ending their lives. The only way to end the stigma around mental health and suicide is to open the lines of communication. Only then can we begin to help and save more people.