Suicide and Stigma: A Review of the Literature and Personal Reflections

Abstract

Objective

The authors aim to educate mental health practitioners and trainees regarding the issues of stigma and suicide and how stigma impacts this diverse population of suicide at tempters, completers, their families, friends, therapists, and others both personally and therapeutically.

Methods

The authors draw upon their own experiences as survivors and review pertinent literature illustrating the history and general impacts of this stigmatization. The authors present suggestions to diminish stigma both for survivors and the general public.

Results

Although there appears to have been some diminution in the stigmatization of the mentally ill over the past few decades, there appears to be less diminution in the stigma associated with suicide and suicide-survivorship.

Conclusion

Mental illness, in general, has become less stigmatized in recent years but suicide remains nearlyas stigmatized as ever.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References

  1. 1.

    Gould MS, Shaffer D: The impact of suicide in TV movies: evidence of imitation. New England J Medicine 1986; 315: 690–694

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Gould MS, Shaffer D, Kleinman M: The impact of suicide in televised movies: replication and commentary. Suicide Life Threat Behav 1988; 18: 90–99

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Link B: Stigma research and current perspectives. Keynote address in Proceedings from Stigma and Mental Illness: A Working Forum. UMDNJ, Piscataway, N.J., Oct 2003, pp 5–13

    Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Hendin H, Lipschitz A, Maltsberger JT, et al: Therapist’s reactions to patients’ suicides. Am J Psychiatry 2000; 157: 2022–2027

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Jones FA Jr: Therapists as survivors of client suicide, in Suicide and its Aftermath: Understanding and Counseling Survivors. Edited by Dunne E, Mcintosh JL, Dunne-Maxim K. New York, WW Norton & Co., 1987, pp 126–141

    Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Corrigan P (ed): On the Stigma of Mental Illness: Practical Strategies for Research and Social Change. Washington, D.C., American Psychological Association Press, 2005

    Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    McIntosh JL: Control group studies of suicide survivors: a review and critique. Suicide Life Threat Behav 1993; 23: 146–161

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Lester D: The stigma against dying and suicidal patients: a replication of Richard Kalish’s study 25 years later. Omega J Death Dying 1992; 26: 71–75

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Rudestam KE: Public perceptions of suicide survivors, in Suicide and its Aftermath: Understanding and Counseling Survivors. Edited by Dunne E, McIntosh JL, Dunne-Maxim K. New York, WW Norton & Co., 1987, pp 31–44

    Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Rudestam KE, Imbroll D: Societal reactions to a child’s death by suicide. J Consult Clin Psychol 1983: 51: 461–462

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Hauser MJ: Special aspects of grief after a suicide, in Suicide and its Aftermath: Understanding and Counseling Survivors. Edited by Dunne E, McIntosh JL, Dunne-Maxim K. New York, WW Norton & Co., 1987, pp 57–70

    Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Calhoun LG, Selby JW, Selby LE: The psychological aftermath of suicide: an analysis of current evidence. Clin Psychol Rev 1982; 2: 409–420

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Range LM: When a loss is due to suicide: unique aspects of bereavement, in Perspectives on Loss a Sourcebook: Death, Dying & Bereavement. Edited by Harvey JH. Philadelphia, Brunner/Mazel, Inc., 1998, pp 213–220

    Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Pfeffer CR, Karus D, Siegel K, et al: Child Survivors of parental death from cancer or suicide: depressive and behavioral outcomes. Psychooncology 2000; 9: 1–10

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Webb NB: Suicidal death of mother: cases of silence and stigma, in Helping Bereaved Children: A Handbook for Practitioners. Edited by Webb NB. New York, Guilford Press, 1993, pp 137–155

    Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Rando TA: Treatment of Complicated Mourning. Chicago, Research Press, 1993, p 525

    Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Schneidman ES: Deaths of Man. New York, Quadrangle Books, 1973

    Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Dunne-Maxim K, Dunne E: Family involvement in suicide prevention and postvention: psychoeducational perspective, in Suicide: An Unnecessary Death. London, Martin Dunitz, 2001

    Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Sudak HS: Suicide, in Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry, 8th ed. Edited by Sadock B, Sadock V Philadelphia, Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, 2005, pp 2442–2453

    Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Roy A, Rylander G, Sarchiapone M: Genetic studies of suicidal behavior. Psychiatr Clin North Am 1997; 20: 595–611.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Pesaresi J: When one of us is gone, in Suicide and its Aftermath. Edited by Dunne EJ, McIntosh J, Dunne-Maxim K. New York, WW Norton & Co., 1987, p 104

    Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Requarth M: After a Parent’s Suicide: Helping Children Heal. Sacramento, Calif., Healing Hearts Press, 2006, p 5

    Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Salvatore A: Recovering from a Suicidal Loss: A Handbook for Survivors. Abington, Pa., Kalnin Printing, Inc., 2004, p 6

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Dr. Howard Sudak M.D..

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Sudak, H., Maxim, K. & Carpenter, M. Suicide and Stigma: A Review of the Literature and Personal Reflections. Acad Psychiatry 32, 136–142 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ap.32.2.136

Download citation

Keywords

  • Mental Illness
  • Support Group
  • Academic Psychiatry
  • Suicide Prevention
  • Suicide Death