The Myths Surrounding Suicide
by Catherine Greenleaf
There are many myths surrounding suicide. Why is this? When people don't feel free to tell the truth, due to shame and stigma, myths seem to abound. This is unfortunate because a lack of credible information can lead to misinformation, ignorance and superstition. For example, years ago, nobody talked about cancer. It was considered a "hush-hush" subject. Back then people actually believed you could "catch" cancer from somebody by shaking their hand or drinking from the same glass.
Suicide is shrouded in the same "hush-hush" attitude, even today. The roots of this secrecy are age-old and deep. During the Middle Ages, a person who died by suicide was stripped naked and tied to the back of a horse. The person's body was dragged throughout the streets of the village for all to see. The remaining family members were turned out of their home and onto the streets, and all their possessions were taken away.
This type of treatment resulted in a great deal of secrecy in a family with a suicide loss. Families attempted to attribute their loved ones' deaths to anything but suicide -- heart attack, food poisoning -- even homicide seemed preferable to suicide during that era. We have been carrying that secrecy, shame and stigma for centuries. It's encoded in our DNA.
Thankfully, in the last decade or so, more and more suicide loss survivors have been bravely stepping forward to fight the stigma and to ask for support and services. However, several myths surrounding suicide still persist:
Myth #1: All people who die by suicide leave a note explaining why.
Truth: Less than 20% of people who die by suicide leave any kind of note or letter. And the majority of these letters are usually housekeeping in nature, such as requests for someone to care for their dog or a bequest, such as leaving a car to a brother.
Myth #2: After a suicide loss, family members rally to support each other.
Truth: Couples who lose a teenager to suicide have the highest divorce rate in the U.S. Unfortunately, due to the trauma, unresolved grief, shame and blame, suicide more often than not tears families apart.
Myth #3: People who lose a loved one to suicide are automatically given grief counseling.
Truth: Survivors of suicide loss usually must pursue their own course of treatment. Other than an initial six weeks of grief counseling granted by some insurance companies, surviving families receive no assistance or guidance in where to find support groups or bereavement therapy and must rely on referrals from friends or the internet. I should add here that not receiving counseling is the No. 1 reason couples divorce and families fall apart.
Myth #4: People die by suicide because of a big disappointment like a relationship breakup or being fired from a job.
Truth: Ninety percent of people who die by suicide are suffering from a diagnosable and treatable brain disorder like chronic depression or bipolar disorder. Research shows people don't choose suicide because of a breakup or firing. They choose suicide to end the intense psychic suffering of an untreated brain disorder.
If you are a suicide loss survivor or love someone who is, you can fight the shame and stigma surrounding suicide by encouraging an open dialogue. Urge family and friends to find a qualified sudden death bereavement therapist. Suggest they attend a weekly suicide loss survivor support group. Give them books with credible information so they can educate themselves. And most of all, encourage them to break the silence and talk about their grief.
Catherine Greenleaf is the author of the highly acclaimed book Healing The Hurt Spirit: Daily Affirmations for People Who Have Lost a Loved One to Suicide.
You can visit her website at: www.healingthehurtspirit.com.
Follow her on Twitter at: www.twitter.com/todayiamhealing
Read her blog at: www.healingfromsuicidegrief.blogspot.com
Healing The Hurt Spirit: Daily Affirmations for People Who Have Lost a Loved One to Suicide is featured on our Helpful Books page - http://www.ididnotknowwhattosay.com/helpfulbooks.html
Grief Support Resources: http://www.ididnotknowwhattosay.com/grief_support_groups.html