Many who have lost someone to suicide receive support and understanding from those around them, but this is not always the case. Stigma and adverse attitudes or actions towards suicide grievers may arise in three settings:
Interpersonal – This involves insensitive comments from friends neighbors, or even relatives. They may concern the victim’s motives, mental health, relationship to the survivor, or the survivor’s level of responsibility for the death.
Community – This involves antipathy or worse from the police, clergy, school staffs, and others in “official” roles. It may involve comments or non-cooperation.
Workplace – This involves injudicious remarks or harassment by co-workers or supervisors or employer actions against the griever’s on-the-job interests.
These sentiments usually are felt at the time of the loss or in the days, weeks, first few months afterwards. This is when grievers are most vulnerable and distracted.
Such hurtful actions add stress and pain. Such occurrences are always inconsiderate and may be illegal.
Grievers must see that they or their lost loved one did nothing to warrant such treatment. They must be able to grieve free of any interference that may complicate their bereavement. They must minimize exposure to such treatment.
At the interpersonal level, noting dissatisfaction with unacceptable comments may suffice. If not distancing oneself from offenders is in order.
When the antagonism comes in someone in a position of responsibility a formal complaint may be indicated. If one griever is so treated others will be also.
At work, survivors may want to use paid or unpaid leave to avoid demands that they return after a short “funeral leave.” If harassed by co-workers there may be no recourse but employer intervention. If this is withheld or if the survivor is penalized they may need the advice of an attorney.
Many anti-griever attitudes reflect ignorance about suicide and its aftermath. Future grievers can be best protected by education. Suicide prevention program must include suicide grievers in their focus. Police and other emergency staff, coroners, school personnel, or any public representative that grievers may meet must be sensitized to their needs and rights. Employee assistance programs must address griever support needs and ongoing risk.