Today I speak to you all from my heart. I whole heartedly hope that by bringing awareness to suicide, we can save more lives from suicide and to help more people through their hard times. I chose today to talk about shame
and suicide because it's my father's birthday. He would have been 52 today...had he not committed suicide last year.
There are many reasons why people commit suicide, but studies show that there is a high correlation between unhealthy shame and suicide. Shame doesn't just push the victim to commit suicide; it carries on long after that in the minds and hearts of the loved ones left behind.
Shame is a temporary and normal human emotion, and if dealt with appropriately, canmotivate us to maintain a healthy balance in our thoughts and actions. If you are doing something that you know is not right, maybe it goes against your personal values, then shame can serve you well by detouring you from continuing with whatever it is that you are doing. This shame is healthy. Unhealthy shame is very much the opposite of this. Unhealthy shame is inaccurate and extreme! This is the shame that doesn’t tell you that you are DOING something wrong; instead it is telling you that you ARE something wrong.
In anger management we teach our clients about unhealthy shame and how to not only identify it, but how to get it out in the open and deal with it appropriately. Unhealthy shame is a very painful emotion and more often than not, is deep rooted in our past, right back to our childhood. Many of us were shamed into doing things 'right' as children and have carried this forward into our adulthood, not realizing what it is, nor how deeply it affects us. Maybe we were teased and bullied as children, outcasts from the social group, or maybe we were told ‘you should be ashamed of
yourself’ so excessively that we began to believe it. No matter what the reasons for excessive, unhealthy shame are, it needs to be challenged and dealt with in a healthy manner.
Victims of suicide often were prone to shaming self-messages of worthlessness and inadequacy. They couldn’t, or chose not to, fight their inner voice who told them that they didn’t belong, or that they were not good enough. Maybe they were humiliated and shamed so deeply that they couldn’t see living past it, or had done something that they viewed as unfixable. Whatever the individual reason for taking their own life, most times, shame was at the bottom of it.
Now, as a ‘survivor of suicide’ I see more shame. I have attended support groups for survivors of suicide where mothers, brothers, friends, husbands, wives, daughters and sons of someone who has completed suicide, admit that they lie and say that their loved one had a heart attack or a fatal accident, all from the shame of the social stigma of suicide. Most don’t realize that they are suffering from the same shame that took their loved one from them.
I personally have been open about the fact that my father killed himself. I am not ashamed of him or the fact that he decided to end his own life. Of course, it hurts me and deeply saddens me that he didn’t choose to get help and to release his shame. Of course, it has affected my life in many ways, so many that I could fill this entire blog with them. BUT I am not ashamed of him or my family, on the contrary! I am proud of us from moving forward together as a family through this heartbreaking, life changing event.
I ask a few things of the readers of this post. First and foremost, if you are someone who has considered suicide, please get help! There are tons of amazing individuals, working in amazing help centres, who are awaiting your call right now. Shame doesn’t have to control you and torture you anymore! If you are someone who is prone to excessive, unhealthy shame, please contact a professional, educate yourself on it and heal from it! If you are someone who is a suicide survivor, don’t be ashamed of it, raise your voice and show people that this is a reality in our society. Tell people your story and raise awareness to this issue. You’d be surprised; it affects more people than you’d think!
Finally, I’d just like to say happy birthday to my Daddy-o! Sending you lots of love up to heaven! You are missed everyday!
I am the founder of The Anger Managers, a clinic that provides court-approved psycho-educational courses and workshops to individuals and corporations