Last year, as a then recently bereaved survivor of suicide loss, I directly experienced people’s insensitivity and judgmentality regarding suicide, the suicide victim and of course, survivors of suicide loss. That was an epiphanic moment for me. For, I then realized the heavy smog of stigma, and shame that shrouds suicide. This, along with the culture of shame and silence that prevents people from viewing the issue with compassion and sensitivity. Naturally, blame, judgment, isolation and exclusion is the dominant narrative of suicide.
However, for every person who eroded my faith in humanity, there were a handful who restored my faith in the essential goodness of people. Among them are my dear friends and former colleagues, Dr. Synthia Mary Mathew, Dr. Carolyn Nesbai and Dr. Roopa Ravi, Department of Psychology, Lady Doak College, Madurai.
Synthia, Carolyn, Roopa and I had been out of touch for several years. But that did not stand in their way they heard about my husband’s tragic death by suicide. All three of them came to condole me. Their behavior was a stark contrast to most people who had condoled me. None of the three asked me any intrusive questions. No gossip; no speculations. No inquisitive questions such as:
On the other hand, their loving gentle presence was reassuring and comforting. They created the space and permission for me to talk. They listened with empathy and concern. I did not sense even an iota of judgement in them. Neither did I sense blame. In fact, they bolstered my resolve to SPEAK about suicide and create spaces for informed conversations on suicide.
It is a matter of great ride for me that the first awareness programme on suicide prevention launched by SPEAK was inaugurated at Lady Doak College last month. And the first gatekeeper training in suicide prevention is also being launched here on September 10—World Suicide Prevention Day.
So, does one need to have a background in psychology to do what Synthia, Carolyn and Roopa did? Certainly not. All it takes is that one needs to be a good human being who reaches out unconditionally with love, compassion and sensitivity when someone is in distress. More so if it’s a survivor of suicide loss.
Big Hugs Carolyn, Synthia and Roopa for compassion and sensitivity in action!
Suicide Prevention needs to be anchored in a context of compassion and concern; not blame and judgment. Let’s work together to break barriers and build bridges!
Dr. Nandini Murali
Dr. Nandini Murali is a feminist and a gender and diversity professional. She is an author who also provides technical support in communications for the social sector. When she is not working, she heads off to the forests with her camera. Currently, she has a magnificent obsession with photographing leopards!