The Stigma of Suicide is Alive and Strong!

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When I started my advocacy journey, over 3 years ago, I was a naive spouse driven by pain and the need to bring PTSD out from the darkness. My hope was to save families from some of the pain mine had gone through by having an awareness and knowledge of mental health.
I was not aware police officers were dying by suicide, but soon became aware, from the few brave and courageous spouses and families who stepped forward to break the silence.
These families have deeply touched my soul and I will bring a part of them with me through life. I have shed many tears reading their emails and talking to them. I have heard their pain and felt honoured to have had their trust, so I could share their families’ experiences with the world. I hold them all very dearly. I see them as beacons of bravery and courage.
What I wasn’t prepared for was those who are adamant about keeping suicides and/or PTSD under the rug and quiet. I have been subjected to relentless, mean, rude and hateful Facebook messages and emails about our decision to share and acknowledge suicides. Some have gone as far as saying I am responsible for the deaths of members by popularizing suicides. Others have said I am disrespecting families and the policing profession. Some spouses have hunted down my personal Facebook page and sent me nasty messages saying that I am every police spouse’s worst nightmare, threatening to start a campaign against me if I don’t stop. One told me my soul is going to burn in hell.
This isn’t just limited to suicides, some are furious to have images of RCMP members and PTSD put together. One RCMP member incessantly contacts me every time I use the picture, with different quotes on it, of the RCMP member slumped over his cruiser door during the Moncton tragedy, depicting the true emotions of a police officer reacting to a very traumatic event he witnessed. She states she is a good friend of this member, he doesn’t have PTSD and I have no right to use it in reference to PTSD in anyway. She says I am humiliating him and demands I take it down.
I have had to take my personal information off the website as I have had people contact me saying they have my name and are going to track me down.
I have had senior police members from different police departments contact me and demand I remove posts.
I have not and I will not.
I am very careful not to make references to what led to their suicide other than when families have shared with me the details of their struggles. I don’t even use the word suicide in the post, just “We lost another” and what was made public.
Almost all of the posts I make about losing a police officer are because someone close to them contacts me and requests for me to do so. They feel a deep need to have them publicly honoured and acknowledged.
I feel deeply that to stay quiet about suicide, to continue to treat it as taboo or a sin, is telling those who are struggling with what is going on within them is also wrong. If we don’t open up the dialogue, and be honest, we are telling people “you need to keep your struggles hidden”. We can stop the need to post about members who went to such a dark place, the only viable option they see is to take their own life, but that takes a determination by the leaders to put in place training at all levels, from recruit to retiree, addressing how PTSD is real, can be mitigated and must be in the open to deny it power.
There are many positive messages as well, but the mean ones sting, make some of my days long and sleep does not come easily at night. I received this one positive message just last night, when I was particularly low. These are what I try my best to hold in my heart and allow them to lift me back up.

“Terry
I ran across this page while reading about the Moose Jaw Member that presumably took their own life.

I was not in the RCMP, I was with Regina Police Service from 1979 to 1990. It took me over 15 years to realize I was dealing with PTSD and it was this year that I finally began to manage it with some level of success.

I can’t thank you enough for what you are doing here. Back in my time, no one even heard of PTSD. Three of my brother officers, two of them my fellow SWAT team members took their lives during my years of service. Others have since of course and it’s all preventible and more manageable. Thank you for speaking out, standing up, and organizing. You are saving lives.

Thank you

Families of the RCMP for PTSD Awareness
Hi Terry, You have no idea how much your kind supportive words mean. Thank you so much Sir for them and your service. Lori

Terry
You are very welcome. You’ve been given a calling. An important one. Every bit as great a calling as the one given to those now needing your help. Fight the fight. Take care.”

Thank you for each and everyone of you have take time to support us and families who are hurting with a few kind words and to do what you can to bring change forward.
We will move forward because those that need us to are worth the pain brought on by the few who are scared and ignorant.
What we witness when we are honest about these tragedies is an opening of dialogue, people sharing, reaching out and connecting. Breaking the isolation that leads people down the dark path of PTSD. This openness builds a community of support and understanding, quite the opposite of what these naysayers are depicting.
There is so much work to be done around mental health and none of it can truly happen until we are honest and stop perpetuating the stigma by keeping quiet about the things we don’t want to, or are afraid to, look at.

Lori
Founder of Families of the RCMP for PTSD Awareness

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3 thoughts on “The Stigma of Suicide is Alive and Strong!

  1. Well Lori there are so many awful people out there nowadays. Social media has enabled these cowards to use the (face-to-face) anonymity to hurl abuse and not face the consequences. I believe some of the people, say members and wives of members, are scared shitless with fear about losing their jobs so they attack you. It’s ugly anyway what you describe. You know, for many, many years, I had the stigma of suicide hanging over me. When I was fourteen years old, my father shot himself. I found his body. My mother insisted we tell everybody that it was heart attack. I couldn’t understand why we should do that so, when my brothere-in-law to be asked me what happened, I told him. Well, when the rest of the family heard this – boom – shit feel on me from great heights. Hence the stigma. I finally just said to myself, enough is enough. That wasn’t until the late eighties and my father dried in 1961.

    It’s a real struggle to have people understand that mental illness is just that – an illness. It has to be dragged out in the open and displayed for what it is. People don’t need a news article or your Web site to decide to take that final step. They may have firsthand knowledge of it through the grapevine anyway. It happens regardless.

    Keep doing what you’re doing. You have a lot of courage which you needed to get your family through your personal experience. It is serving you will here and on FB. And the members as well.

    P.S. I don’t know if you’re religious but I need to say something about God and hell. Would you live someone if they said to you, “Love me or you’ll burn in hell.” I don’t know what kind of God this is that asks this of us. My feeling is, don’t worry, there’s no hell to go to.

    All the best, Greg

  2. Suicide is COMMON, it is a HUMAN reaction to crisis. It is NOT weakness, evil or selfish, it is the result of being unable to endure any more pain. My husband completed suicide; I am not evil because of his decision to die, nor is he. I feel sorry that he felt he had no other option but I will never hold that decision against him. The smartest people are those who can approach life and death without being judgemental. There aren’t any resources accessible to me to help me cope with his suicide – is it really still that much of a stigma!? I know I’m not the only first responder spouse dealing with this. The stigma is ridiculous, it’s 2016 for crying out loud!

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