The Stigma of Suicide

September is suicide prevention month and in honor of that I would like to discuss the stigma of suicide.

I’m very forth coming with my struggles with depression and anxiety. It does me no good to keep those feelings inside, so when the opportunity arises for me to talk about them, I do. I’m not as open about my own suicide attempts because there is an intense amount of shame that follows it. I’m not proud of the fact that I have taken a hand full of pills to attempt to stop my heart, but it is something that happened when I was at the bottom and in despair. I’m not proud of the fact that I called the suicide hotline begging for help, but I did it and I’m still here.

As a Catholic (and any person of faith might agree), taking ones own life was always seen as a horrible sin that was the same as committing murder. People were not able to have Catholic burials in the church because their sin was so grave. This has later been changed and people can now have Catholic burials. I always would say how selfish it was to commit suicide, how can a person do such a thing? And then it happened to me. The depression was so deep and I didn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. My anxiety was through the roof and nothing in my life made sense. Did I want to die? No. But did I want these feelings to stop? Yes.

That’s the thing about suicide. It’s not selfish. In fact, more often than not, the person considering it is being selfless. They are in that low of a state that they believe the world and their loved ones would be better off if they were no longer living. Read that sentence again. And read it one more time. That’s how low a person gets when contemplating suicide. The world would be better without them here. That is the lowest of the low.

There is still a huge shame with discussing mental health issues. And to that I say, SCREW THAT! People are dying because they are afraid and ashamed. No more, we can’t continue this way. Here’s some advice I have to offer to anyone struggling. Know that you are not alone. I know it feels like you are, but I guarantee you that you are not. Reach out to a family member, a friend, the suicide hotline. Verbalize those feelings and realize that they might be irrational, but they are valid feelings. To the friend or loved one who sees someone suffering, just listen. Don’t judge and don’t criticize, just listen. Let your friend or loved one vent and reassure them that they are loved and cared for and that they have a right to their feelings.

The internet can be a dark and scary place at times, but it also offers connections and avenues to get help. If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please look up the suicide hotline or suicide message boards. There are a ton of resources at your disposal. The first step to anything is admitting that there is a problem and then you must seek help.

September is suicide prevention month, but please be open to this struggle all year round. We are better than stigmatizing pain.

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Michelle Sabato

Michelle is an actor and writer who was born and raised in Cleveland's Little Italy. Some of Michelle's hobbies include: reading, writing, film and carrying conversations solely made up of movie quotes.

7 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Hello Michelle,

    Thank you for your extremely brave blog post. My only sibling and sister, Brianne, committed suicide just over a year ago today. It was her fifth attempt. Her fourth attempt occurred 4 years before and it left her on life support for 2 days. Brianne struggled with depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and suicidal ideation since a young adult. When she died, I listed out all of the things she loved and knew she had so much to live for. With this being said, her struggle was too hard and as Brianne noted, in a letter she drafted 2 months earlier, before she used Seroquel to end her life, Brianne was not “equipped to run this marathon.” At first, I was so stricken with pain, that I was angry with her and did not understand how she could leave me and her two nieces who loved her so much. Searching for more clues, I reread her letter a thousand times. After the fog cleared, it dawned on me that she was in too much pain, even though she made it very clear in her letter. I love her very, very much, and I think about her every day. It is a horrible feeling, to want to share something with her, text her a photo of my daughters making silly faces (which would have made my sister smile because she loved them so much), but not be able to. To abandon all of the things Brianne enjoyed is not selfish. It is the only answer at the bottom of an abyss. If the stigma of depression and other disorders was less prevalent, I think there would be more hope and more relief from dark feelings and haunting bad self talk, which would result in the loss of less loved ones. I could not agree with you more about SCREW the shame in discussing mental health issues. There are many people who have been touched by this in one way or another and offer an open ear and respite. Be that person to listen or be that person that opens up to share struggles. And together we will find our way through the darkness and into the light.

    ~Erin

    • Erin, thank you so much for this response. I obviously never knew your sister, but I can assure you that leaving you and your daughters was not part of the equation when making her decision, it was end the pain that made her choose what she did. And I think it was meant to be that my post came out today, with this being so close to her anniversary. I hope it helped you and brings honor to her memory. It’s not easy to talk about, but it’s mandatory for me to do it.

  • Thanks for sharing your struggles, Michelle. My high school boyfriend committed suicide when we were 20 years old – just before I was about to do it myself – & his death changed (& maybe saved) my life. I do my best to speak out about the stigma of suicide & of mental illness in general, helping people to understand the mindset of people with depression & thoughts of suicide & how to best help them. Losing someone to suicide is, I think, a uniquely painful loss; I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

    • Yes, it’s a different loss and feeling than someone who passes away from natural causes. And even if people can’t relate and understand it themselves, it’s best that we are opening to listening (although I know that can be difficult, too).

  • Hi Michelle,

    Thank you for your bravery in speaking out. I lost a parent and a close friend to suicide and can relate so much to the shame and judgement you wrote about, although from a different perspective. The stigma around suicide and mental health in general needs to end and pieces like yours help that effort. Thank you again for sharing!

  • Thank you for sharing Michelle! As someone who has advocated for suicide awareness for several years as well, I invite you to share this link with anyone else you know that may write about the topic. The more we educate people on how to talk about suicide (I.e. Removing the usage of “committed”) I hope there will be less stigma surrounding this issue in the future!

    http://afsp.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/recommendations.pdf

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