In the aftermath of another celebrity suicide death I have been thinking about the consequences of internalised shame…
All too often the shame simply becomes too big to survive. There are so many situations where we can internalise shame…not feeling like we fit into a group such as not appearing British enough, woman enough, man enough, trans enough, white enough, black enough etc. We are given so many signals growing up and into adulthood as to what is socially un/acceptable and if we happen to fit the ‘wrong’ category the shame carried can be fatally toxic. Finances is often another big driver for suicide; the ultimate cost being the life of someone who feels shamed that they have failed their family.
The internet is great for helping those in marginalised groups being able to find information, community and support. 41% of trans people will have at least one suicide attempt in their lifetime. I’m sure the sense of community provided online helps to keep the number from being higher than this. It’s too high though. Shockingly high. One of the contributory factors…social media. So the internet both helps and hinders. People so often find their voice of hatred whilst protected behind a technological screen…some have little thought for the consequences, others post in the full knowledge and hope of causing distress. What readily gets missed is that hatred is so often fuelled by fear, fear of difference, fear of change, fear of our assumptions being shown to be incorrect, fear that we will be shown to be lacking in some way. .
The language we use around suicide also has an impact. The term ‘committed suicide’ is rather outdated now and harks back to an area where it was illegal to end one’s own life. More recent terminology such as ‘taken their own life’ or ‘death by suicide’ have a less stigmatising effect both for the individual and for those left in grief.
And then, of course, there are those left behind. Suicide loss is a bereavement like no other. It’s incredibly difficult to process and integrate into life. There are so often more questions than there are answers; questions that inevitably can never be answered. It leaves a particular scar, often laced with shame and so the cycle potentially continues.
So, the next time you take to social media, take a deep breath and ask yourself what the impact of the post might be. It’s OK to challenge, to disagree but it’s so shaming and wounding to be targeted by hatred. We need to each own our fears about things we don’t agree with or don’t understand. The cumulative effect could be an end to a life.