Is it possible that even after so much awareness and education on individuals with mental health challenges, people still stigmatize this group of individuals?
In fact, we still have a long way to go if we want our society to be fully inclusive. However, before we can even start to change people’s mindsets, we have to change ours first. We all have our own set of morals and beliefs and that’s great. But perhaps at the end of this article, we can reflect a little on why it is so important to address stigmas in our society.
I think for a very long time, suicide survivors are individuals who have been easily dismissed. I wouldn’t find it surprising if many people don’t even know who they are. That being said, you can imagine just how much more people wouldn’t even know about the struggles they go through.
One such struggle that most people don’t even stop to consider, is the pressure they face to ‘move on’. To us, this can be a very simple concept: a person dies, we grief, and then we move on with life. But things can be very different when a person has to grieve over a suicide loss instead of a natural death (e.g., old age, sickness). Often this group of individuals, or survivors, are left to grapple with a whole lot of overwhelming emotions, as they try to make sense of why it happened.
Everyone’s grieving process will be different, and it just makes things even harder when insensitive people rush others to get over the loss. It’s not that easy. Sometimes, survivors have to deal with such dismissive remarks and that can eventually take a toll on their mental health.
When they are constantly expected to be okay after the loss, it makes it seem that they cannot be ‘not okay’.
So when many survivors fall into despair and even end up being at higher risks of hurting themselves due to the intense feelings of pain, they are caught in the middle. On one hand, they need to process their emotions - all the grief, loss, etc. However on the other hand, they cannot afford to spiral so deep into despair, that they find themselves at a place where they are considering to take their own lives as well.
Unfortunately, there are survivors who choose to take their own lives too.
If we want to stop this cycle, we need to first recognize that there is this pressure that is placed on them. If we don’t, they will forever be held to this stigma that they cannot be ‘not okay’.
Secondly, we should give them a safe space to talk about their journey. If we can encourage them to share about their healing journey, perhaps it could serve as a form of inspiration and support for other survivors going through similar experiences. This might help them find meaning in their difficult moments.
Hence, it is so important that we validate what they are going through so that as a community, we can likewise provide the necessary support that they need. Eventually, I believe the catalyst for healing to take place in them is when they realize that it is okay to grieve at their own pace.
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