Activity time: 30 minutes
Distribute copies of Suicide Prevention, Myths and Facts and Suicide Fact Sheet, which participants were asked to read before the workshop. Invite them to share things they found surprising from the list and things that verify their own experiences. Be comfortable with silences in this part of the activity; it may take some time for people to gather their thoughts to respond. Allow ten minutes for this discussion.
Then brainstorm a list of common perceptions and generalizations about suicide of a person who is not terminally ill. Tell them that they need not personally believe something to list it as a common perception. You can get the brainstorm started by adding one or two of these perceptions:
- Suicide is a sin. It breaks the bonds between a person and God, and with family and community.
- Suicide is not natural; it breaks the natural cycle of life and death.
- Suicide demonstrates weakness and failure to cope.
- Suicide is an escape from a personal battle.
- Suicide is a way of getting back after being rejected or hurt.
- Suicide demonstrates a failure of systems of intervention and support.
Then invite participants to examine each of the statements. Engage participants in discussion, asking:
- When have you heard friends, acquaintances, or the media make these or similar statements?
- Are such statements helpful? Why or why not?
Share this advice from the website of The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention for those who are grieving a death due to suicide:
An underlying mental disorder alone is not usually enough. Most people who kill themselves experienced a combination of deep psychological pain, desperate hopelessness, and challenging life events.
We know that suicide is the tragic outcome of a serious underlying illness combined with a complicated mix of individual circumstances. It is not a sign of moral weakness. It does not reveal a character flaw. It is not a sign of irresponsibility, or a hostile act. It should not be a source of shame. Reading this paragraph over and over again until it sinks in can help you to make sense of the suicide loss and begin your healing journey.