Stakeholder Perspectives on the Stigma of Suicide Attempt Survivors

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Abstract

Background: Past scholarly efforts to describe and measure the stigma surrounding suicide have largely viewed suicide stigma from the perspective of the general public. Aims: In the spirit of community-based participatory research (CBPR), the current study brought together a diverse stakeholder team to qualitatively investigate the suicide stigma as experienced by those most intimately affected by suicide. Method: Seven focus groups (n = 62) were conducted with suicide attempt survivors, family members of those who died by suicide, and suicide loss therapists. Results: Themes were derived for stereotypes (n = 30), prejudice (n = 3), and discrimination (n = 4). People who attempted suicide were seen as attention-seeking, selfish, incompetent, emotionally weak, and immoral. Participants described personal experiences of prejudice and discrimination, including those with health professionals. Conclusion: Participants experienced public stigma, self-stigma, and label avoidance. Analyses reveal that the stigma of suicide shares similarities with stereotypes of mental illness, but also includes some important differences. Attempt survivors may be subject to double stigma, which impedes recovery and access to care.

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