Updated: May 2
The stigma surrounding suicide comes from misconceptions due to generations of miscommunication founded in judgment and based on a lack of awareness and understanding. It’s time to change the narrative, not because it’s politically correct to do so, but because if what we really want is to prevent suicide, addressing these misconceptions is the first step to achieving our goal.
Misconception #1: The stigma is shame
Shame is not the stigma. It is the result of the stigma. The actual stigma is that mental illness and suicide are often seen by others as a choice, a weakness, or a selfish act. Therefore, there is often a sense of blame and judgment involved when a person attempts suicide or dies from it.
Another aspect of the stigma is the idea that the person is broken or that they are simply a bad person. Because they are perceived as broken or bad, the people around them, including family, friends, and even providers, are often focused on trying to fix them or fix their behavior.
Rather than trying to fix someone, we need to make every effort to understand what they’re going through while showing them love and support.
Misconception #2: Suicide is a choice
No one chooses suicide.
A person who dies from suicide is in such a dire situation that they truly believe that there is no other option. In a state of such extreme distress, they have lost the ability to make rational decisions. Not only that, for someone to have the ability to die from suicide, it would indicate that their primal instinct to survive has failed or that their personal survival was second to their belief that this act would protect others.
Many suicide attempt survivors often carry an unspoken amount of guilt and shame from blaming themself for “making the choice” to die until asked the following question.
“Knowing you consider yourself to be healthy today, would you choose to die from suicide?”
The answer is always no, followed by a look of deep reflection as they process the reality that healthy people do not die from suicide.
Misconception #3: Suicide is the result of pain
Many people live in pain every day and yet not everyone living in pain dies from suicide. It isn’t simply the pain someone is experiencing that causes suicide. It is the lack of effective tools and resources to navigate their pain.
All That We Are provides a comprehensive and transformative approach that educates and empowers individuals to make informed decisions about achieving and maintaining their best lives.
It isn’t enough to keep people alive - we must teach them how to live a life they love.
Misconception #4: Suicide is simply a mental health issue
All health challenges are the result of an imbalance in the body. To prevent suicide, we have to understand the connection between our physical, mental, and emotional health.
All That We Are’s founder, Jenny Thrasher, created the Human Health Connection to help people understand root causes and how to achieve efficient and effective care.
The Human Health Connection is made up of three interconnected systems; physical, mental, and emotional. Each system is dependent on and impacted by the other two. To heal, we have to understand the various elements of each system and restore balance to the areas that are out of balance.
Misconception #5: Talk Therapy & pharmaceuticals are the only solutions
Talk therapy and antidepressants are often the first interventions people think of when they are experiencing mental health challenges. But will either correct a hormone imbalance or heal a head trauma?
While reaching out for support is strongly encouraged, working with a traditional mental health professional is not the only strategy, nor is it the most effective, depending on the root cause. Working with a provider who assists you in discovering the root cause can empower you to seek the best course of action to meet your individual needs. Alternative healing modalities, such as acupuncture, massage, and nutrition, are just a few examples of powerful therapeutic care that are rarely recognized as effective tools to utilize when facing mental health challenges.
Misconception #6: We will remove the stigma by talking about it more
It’s not simply how often we talk about suicide; it’s how we talk about suicide that matters. When we share our thoughts or personal experiences, we can inspire and empower the people we share with - or we can unintentionally cause harm. We must do everything we can to be present, in tune, and conscientious of how our words impact those around us.
At All That We Are, we encourage language focused on respecting the individual while acknowledging the challenges they are facing and focusing on helping them live a life they love.
Misconception #7: Talking about suicide is uncomfortable & depressing
Holding space for someone to share their experience is an opportunity to support them and help them in their healing. That level of trust and connection is a gift.
As human beings, we need connection to thrive, and it is through sharing in the challenges we face that we often experience the deepest connections. Healthy and intentional conversations build connections and reduce the risk of suicide.
Misconception #8: I can’t help because I can’t relate
As our founder always says, “If you notice someone going through mental health challenges, respond to them the same way you would if they’d just been hit in the face with a golf ball. What they need in that moment is to know that someone cares. You don’t have to have personal experience to know it hurts like hell.”
Misconception #9: Suicide is 100% preventable
This is like saying heart attacks, diabetes, and cancer are completely preventable. Not only is it unrealistic, it perpetuates the stigma that suicide is a choice, and it intensifies the shame and guilt felt by those who’ve lost a loved one to suicide, leaving them feeling as if they should have and could have done more to prevent it.
As with any other health condition, we can reduce our risks through awareness and understanding.
Suicide prevention is not just about stopping suicide in the moment of crisis—real prevention is living a life you love
While we may not be able to eliminate suicide, we can see that by shifting our focus from a fear-based, crisis mentality to one of wellness and empowerment, we can equip ourselves with the knowledge needed for sustainable suicide prevention practices.
As Dr. Thomas Joiner pointed out at the 2023 Kevin’s Song Conference, learning how to live a life of connection, meaning, and contribution is the key.
So take a moment and ask yourself, what am I doing to ensure I’m experiencing connection, meaning, and contribution on a regular basis.
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All That We Are® (ATWA) is changing how society responds to mental health, emotional crises, and suicide. By challenging the traditional path of health and wellness, we're making it possible for everyone to live a life they love.
Founder, Jenny Landon, has a B.A. in Psychology, extensive training as a crisis counselor, and is a public educator on crisis and suicide prevention. With the knowledge she'd gained over her career and her own firsthand experiences, she founded ATWA with an inspiring vision: to help people heal by living a life they love — something traditional suicide prevention practices have failed to do.
Jenny has successfully implemented her approach in communities and organizations across the U.S. and Canada, Costa Rica, Colombia, Panama, Sudan, Italy, Dubai, the U.K., Australia, and Ireland.