Suicide Science

pp 67-79

Shame, Guilt, and Suicide

  • Mark E. HastingsAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, George Mason University
  • , Lisa M. NorthmanAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, George Mason University
  • , June P. TangneyAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, George Mason University

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Summary and Conclusions

In this chapter, we’ve discussed the potential role of shame and guilt in both the causes and consequences of suicide. Theory and emerging empirical research indicates that feelings of shame are more prominent than guilt in the dynamics leading up to suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Nonetheless, experiences of shame often go unnoticed by both client and therapist in the therapeutic session (Lewis, 1971). Treatment of suicidal clients may be enhanced to the extent that therapists and other mental health professionals develop a ‘third ear’ for subtle markers of hidden shame experiences. The importance of considering shame and guilt in connection with suicide extends to the ‘survivors’ of suicide, as well. Although often overlooked, friends and family members are also vulnerable to experiences d shame and/or guilt in the aftermath of a loved one’s suicide. Therapists, too, often experience similar emotional reactions that may be exacerbated by concerns Unique to their professional role as treatment providers.