TW: Discussions of suicide
Dazharia Shaffer, a TikTok star known as “Dee,” died by suicide last week at age 18. When posting about her death, her father said he would have helped her if he’d known about her thoughts of suicide.
Suicide Increasing Among Youth
In recent years, the number of young people attempting or completing suicide has risen. Between 2000 and 2017, suicides among those aged 15-19 increased by 47%. In 2017, it was the second-leading cause of death for people aged 15-24, behind unintentional car crashes. In 2019, almost 19% of high school students reported having seriously considered suicide in the past year.
Combatting Stigma Around Suicide
Despite these alarming statistics, there is still stigma around suicide that makes it difficult for people to seek help. This stigma may even exacerbate the problem. A study published in Frontiers in Psychiatry discusses how the image of people who attempt or complete suicide as “selfish”, “attention-seeking” or “weak” can contribute to suicidal thoughts. It can cause people whose mental health is already suffering to feel ashamed and hide.
According to the study authors, “With the aim of preventing suicide, greater efforts should be made to combat the persisting stigmatizing attitudes displayed toward mental disorders and suicide itself.” One simple but important way to start changing public perception is to shift our language.
The Centre for Suicide Prevention suggests refraining from using the phrase “commit suicide;” the word “commit” implies that the person did something criminal. This contributes to a view of suicide as a moral issue. In reality, suicide has to do with mental health, access to treatment, societal issues such as racism or homophobia, and a host of other factors that are much more complex.
Shaffer was known for videos of her participating in viral challenges and documenting her life. Since notice of her death, millions of fans have posted comments expressing love for her. Her parents are dealing with the unimaginable pain of losing a child, but they aren’t giving in to stigma or secrecy about how their daughter died.
As we’ve written on this blog before, stigma can also complicate the mourning process for people who have lost a loved one to suicide. However, Shaffer’s parents made a choice to be open about what happened. “I only wish she would have spoken to me about her stress and the thoughts of suicide,” her dad said. “We could work thru [sic] this.”
If you are struggling with a mental health or substance use disorder, there is help and hope. Amatus Recovery Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you feel connected and supported in recovery. To learn more, call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.