Stigma

Suicide Prevention is challenged by the stigma surrounding it.

Internationally and in the United States, stigma remains the largest barrier to effective suicide prevention. Consistent with the view of the World Health Organization, the U.S. National Strategy for Suicide Prevention notes that suicide is closely linked to mental illness and substance abuse and effective treatments exist for both.Despite the fact that effective treatments exist for these disorders and conditions, the stigma of mental illness and substance abuse prevents many persons from seeking assistance, fearing prejudice and discrimination. About two thirds of people with mental disorders do not seek treatment (Kessler et al, 1996.) The stigma of suicide, while deterring some from attempting suicide, is also a barrier to treatment for many persons who have suicidal thoughts or who have attempted suicide. This only adds to the emotional burdens.

Family members of suicide attempters often hide the behavior from friends and relatives, since they may believe it reflects badly on their own relationship with the suicide attempter or that suicidal behavior itself is shameful or sinful. Those who have survived the suicide of a loved one suffer not only the grief of loss, but also the pain of isolation from a community that may be perplexed and uninformed about suicide and its risk factors.

According to the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, while there are many reasons for not receiving mental health or substance abuse services, stigma is an important factor. “It is both the contributing cause and a result of society’s collective devaluation of mental and substance abuse as an illness as compared to physical illness, such as heart disease or diabetes.”

Suicide Prevention Resources for Rhode Island Residents

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