Last year our nation was in shock over the devastating news that Robin Williams had committed suicide. It is difficult to understand why such a gifted actor would choose to end his life. Sadly, though, the actor is not alone in making such a choice.
According to a CBS News piece, each year 34,000 individuals commit suicide. And for those that are left behind, the grief can be unspeakable.
Suicide has an incredible negative stigma attached to it, as it is often viewed as a selfish act. So often it is not associated with the deep clinical depression or serious mental health illnesses that may have accompanied the individual.
Despite growing education about both clinical depression and other mental health illnesses, many do not fully understand either.
As a licensed clinical social worker, I often saw individuals in an outpatient setting who had tried a plethora of different medications prescribed by their psychiatrist, and still found little relief from their depression.
There are people who are so overwhelmed with their depression that they feel that they are a burden to their family, and actually think that the family would be better off without them.
For surviving family members, however, the shame associated with suicide is burdensome and can cause extreme anxiety on top of the grief. The guilt often envelops the family because they somehow feel that they could have prevented the tragedy. Or worse yet, someone actually implies they are to blame.
Further, if someone does not feel completely supported in either their social circle, or even in their family, they are unlikely to share the details surrounding their family member’s death. The judgements encircling suicide can also mean that family members do not receive the same level of support that one receives if their loved one died from cancer.
Being non-authentic about a family member’s death can create damage in your relationship with them. And even if you are not verbalizing your negative thoughts, passing judgments can easily be sensed.