People involved in suicide prevention and suicide grief support hear a lot about "reducing stigma." In an online course I just finished creating for the National Center for Death Education, I write:
Suicide stigma continues to be a powerful and active force that is woven into the fabric of our communal interactions. Stigma affects people who think about suicide, who attempt it, who die from it, and who are left behind to mourn the dead ... Research shows that stigma negatively affects [survivors of suicide loss's] tendency to seek help, their social connections, and their sense of isolation ... SOSLs consistently report that people often do not know what to do or say to acknowledge or support their mourning, which suggests that suicide stigma continues to influence people's beliefs and behavior.We also know from research that direct contact with people who are stigmatized reduces negative stereotypes. This indicates how powerful Mike Purcell's "Putting a Face on Suicide" project might be, for PAFOS provides the next closest experience to "direct contact" with people affected by suicide stigma. The project shares thousands of pictures in a simple format that is breathtaking in how it captures the beauty and diversity of people who die by suicide and heartbreaking in how starkly it portrays the tragedy of suicide.
The simple format is a plain frame containing each person's picture, name, and age. The pictures are broadcast one suicide victim after another in a seemingly unending stream on the PAFOS Facebook page. The pictures of each unique -- and very alive -- human being connect us all to one another, hopefully in a way that weakens the influence of suicide stigma.
Here are instructions for submitting information about a loved one for inclusion in "Putting a Face on Suicide."Subscribe to the Grief After Suicide Newsletter.