Trigger warning: This post discusses suicide and suicide attempts, and includes specific examples of harmful stigma around these topics. Please do not read any further if you are vulnerable or if reading this content may put you at risk of harm or distress. Reader discretion is strongly advised.
Suicide and the stigma surrounding it is a topic that is particularly close to my heart. I am a grateful survivor of suicide attempts and I have also been bereaved by suicide.
Because of this (and because I’m not completely void of empathy and human decency) I was absolutely horrified to be made aware of a disgusting article posted by VICE in 2013, that remains on their website as of the time of writing this post. In fact, they apparently re-uploaded it when they moved to VICE.com from their Viceland website.
I’m going to provide the link to the article for proof but please do not read the article if you are vulnerable.
REMINDER: trigger warnings for suicide, suicide attempts, so-called medical professional spouting stigmatising bollocks and essentially mocking patients who have attempted suicide… the list goes on but you get the gist.
I repeat: DO NOT READ IT IF YOU ARE VULNERABLE. Honestly, it’s a shitshow.
I’m going to talk about the article now.
I will be discussing some of her most egregious comments, including the wording she uses in the article. Again, reader discretion is strongly advised.
Okay so Dr Mona Moore (an alias, as the coward is willing to shit on the Hippocratic oath but not using her real name) basically suggests/outright says that people who attempt suicide are doing so for attention. She also spits out the old “if you were really going to do it, you wouldn’t tell anyone” chestnut.
So, let’s go with her logic.
If you have a heart condition and you start to feel the symptoms of a heart attack, I’m guessing your thoughts would go something like:
“I’m experiencing symptoms of a heart attack. If I don’t get help I might die. Best call 999.”
No problems there, right?
So if you have a mental health condition and you start to feel the symptoms of, let’s call it a suicide attack (i.e. your brain is sending signals to the body to kill itself, or it may have already caused you to take action to harm yourself), I ABSOLUTELY HOPE that you would have exactly the same thoughts as above:
“I’m experiencing symptoms of a suicide attack. If I don’t get help, I might die. Best call 999.”
Why is one seen as the obvious course of action, but the other is seen as a “waste of time and money” or “attention-seeking”?
Would you honestly turn around and tell the heart attack patient that if the heart attack was really going to result in their death they wouldn’t have presented themselves at A&E? Would you tell them their hospital visit was an exercise in “seeking attention”?
Sounds fucking stupid, right? Yeah.
In BOTH cases, an organ is malfunctioning.
In BOTH cases, there is risk of death.
In BOTH cases, HELP IS NEEDED.
This bullshit aside, good old “Dr Moore” casually drops offensive, derogatory slurs, including the R-word, “nutcase” and “unhinged”. The fact that she feels okay with using this stigmatising language is an indicator of how she views and treats her patients, and this really does scare me. I am frightened for her patients. If these are her actual views (and she claims that they are), I fear for the standard of care her patients receive… if they receive care from her at all.
She concludes her vitriol by suggesting that suicidal people just “go to the cinema” rather than attempting to end their lives. As if it’s in any way, shape, or form that simple. The complete absence of empathy or understanding from a supposed doctor is genuinely stomach-turning.
So, clearly her article is disgusting – I really hope that’s obvious enough. But what about the bigger picture?
To know that there are still people who hold these outdated and debunked views is worrying enough in itself. But this is worse.
Not only are these views held by a doctor, but this doctor has also taken to a public platform to spread her toxic opinions. I dread to think how many vulnerable people have stumbled across her article and the effect it may have had. Not only that, but the thought that people may read her article and, seeing that she’s in a position of power and authority, think that her opinions are factual.
This article stigmatises suicide and suicide attempts, and may encourage others to dismiss or invalidate the experiences of those who are struggling. I mean, if a doctor’s saying it, it must be true, right?
No. She’s wrong. Her opinions are wrong and worse than that, they’re dangerous. And fuck VICE for giving it a platform for seven years so far.
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, you deserve help. If your life is at risk, going to the hospital to prevent yourself from dying by suicide is absolutely the right thing to do.
You are not attention-seeking. You are not a burden. You are unwell and you need AND DESERVE treatment and support.
Thankfully, I believe she is a rarity. The majority of medical professionals are kind, caring, and dedicated to saving your life. Please let them.
And if you know someone is struggling, please, for the love of every deity, do not dismiss their pain. Do not accuse them of seeking attention. Do not suggest they go to the fucking cinema.
Take them seriously. Help them. Please, please, help them.
If you have been affected by the topics raised in this article, the Samaritans helpline (116 123) is open 24/7, 365 days a year. It’s free to call and I have used their service many times. I am eternally grateful to them and gladly vouch for them whenever I can.
If there is immediate risk to life and/or safety, please call 999 immediately or present yourself at A&E. For non-urgent support, you can make an appointment with your GP or in some cases, you can self-refer to mental health services.
If you have any thoughts about this article or about suicide stigma in general, please feel free to comment below.