"Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.” -Dr. Brene Brown (I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t)
As we enter National Suicide Prevention Week, we hope to draw attention to the topic. Project Semicolon makes an important clarification that “Suicide is a complex issue involving numerous factors and should not be attributed to any one single cause. Not all people who die by suicide have been diagnosed with a mental illness and not all people with a mental illness attempt to end their lives by suicide.”
What can we do?
Since there are many different causes of suicide, there are also many different ways to prevent suicide. Self-Care is CRUCIAL in preventing mental illness from worsening, and in my mind, is one of those non-negotiable things. That’s why we must prioritize ourselves, realize that self-care is NOT selfish, and make it a daily habit to nourish the four areas of self-care: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. By doing so, we can prevent things from getting to the point of suicidal thoughts.
Whatever we are dealing with, whether it’s PTSD (mental illness), starting college or having a baby (major life transition), or we experienced a sexual assault (a traumatic event), and subsequently (and naturally) we are struggling... Let’s say we are getting horrible sleep, struggling with extreme anxiety, we start having nightmares, we become extremely irritable, we develop poor appetite, and we start isolating ourselves and saying “no” to social events (just to name a few “warning sign” symptoms), and we don’t reach out for support and help, then that’s a big problem. Shame (and stigma) are ultimately what prevents us from reaching out and getting the help we need and deserve, which is why developing Shame Resilience is so important; and, it’s a self-care practice that can ultimately prevent suicide.
“I think shame is lethal. I think shame is deadly. And I think we are swimming in it deep.” Brown explains that feelings of shame can quietly marinate over a lifetime. “Here’s the bottom line with shame,” she says. “The less you talk about it, the more you got it. Shame needs three things to grow exponentially in our lives: secrecy, silence, and judgment.” -Dr. Brene Brown
Dr. Brown discusses more about how empathy can stop shame dead in its tracks and how having a strong support system are both imperative to developing resilience to shame.
To learn more about developing shame resilience and the amazing research of Dr. Brene Brown, check out our recent blog series.
What else can help?
The act of seeking therapy is always a great idea for preventative self-care. However, it is IMPERATIVE to find the right therapist AND treatment for you. One treatment I am a big fan and advocate of is EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing). EMDR is a special kind of psychotherapy that can help to remove negative shame-based beliefs about ourselves. Sometimes we can believe something about ourselves such as:
I’m not good enough
I’m a bad person
I deserve to die
There’s something wrong with me
We may logically know that it’s wrong or untrue, but it’s more about the felt sense of the thoughts that become a belief. It’s much more emotional than logical. EMDR therapy focuses on reprocessing and desensitization of the events (memories) from trauma and then ridding negative beliefs around it. As trauma and PTSD can be related to depression and shame, EMDR is effective in treating it. However, this type of therapy goes beyond trauma; it can also create mental transformations so that we have nothing but positive beliefs about ourselves.
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, depression or trauma call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Remember, you are not alone, you can overcome trauma (or whatever it is you’re dealing with) and it WILL get better.
1. Brown, Brene, I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn't), New York: Penguin Random House LLC, 2007, Print.