The Pain and Shame of Suicide Loss Episode 208, October 20, 2020
Retired Pennsylvania State Trooper, author, and suicide prevention advocate, Govan Martin, joins us to share his experience related to loss and stigma regarding suicide and what can help more men choose life.
“Men are embarrassed to talk about this. It makes us feel weak. I was one of those people. I didn’t want to talk about it for years and years.” ~ Govan Martin
These are especially worrisome and isolating times that can increase anxiety, depression, and suicide attempts. I believe that silence kills men. Today’s conversation is one way to change that. Two men, with lived experience, will be discussing the pain and shame around suicide loss.
Govan Martin shares openly about the loss of his brother to suicide. His brother, Michael, took his life at age 16, and Govan was who found him. That moment has affected every day of his life since. Govan speaks of the resistance everyone had to talk about suicide and the judgments he feared hearing from people; your brother is going to hell; he took the easy way out.
Everybody needs to be more comfortable in being uncomfortable. It is healing to talk about suicide. It is nothing you can catch or spread by discussing it. Govan and Andy discuss the most common reactions they’ve gotten whenever suicide comes up.
TRIGGER WARNING: There is open talk about suicidal thoughts and attempts in this episode.
If you are contemplating suicide, please reach out for help. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text HOME to 741741. Outside of the US, get more numbers here.
Govan experienced more suicide loss and went on to run the peer support program for the PA State Police. Even though he told himself he would never reach out for support. Eventually, his emotional backpack couldn’t hold it all, and he went to counseling. So many issues went back to his brother, and never talking about it.
Only 3-5% of police departments have suicide prevention programs. Police training is still telling officers that emotions and asking for help is weak. Govan is creating his own non-profit, the Suicide Prevention Alliance, to get more people talking and fewer dying.
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- (3:10) What brought you to suicide prevention work?
- (4:28) Did you share this at all back when you were 17?
- (10:54 )Were you somehow taught not to talk about suicide?
- (14:00) Is the stigma around suicide that we just don’t talk about it, or are there other aspects?
- (19:17) For a long time, people never heard from attempt survivors.
- (21:04) Everybody has an emotional backpack that they fill and carry.
- (25:30) – Fear of being judged, especially by other men, keeps us from talking.
- (27:18) Govan’s other experiences with suicide loss.
- (37:31) Men are often expected and pressured not to show any emotions. Is that even stronger for police officers?
- (43:04) Is police training dehumanizing officers?
- (46:55) Men do care, though we’ve been told it isn’t cool to show that.
- (47:44) Govan’s experience being a contributing author to the “Guts, Grit, and The Grind” book series.
- (49:55) When an officer takes their life, does the rest of the force come together and talk about it?
- (57:23) Being Superman
- (1:03:10) For years, Govan wouldn’t even tell people he had a brother.
- (1:04:00) Andy on the biggest lie men have bought into — a man does it alone.
“We have a hard time trusting others because we see how the public reacts to the word suicide, or even to mental illness.” ~ Govan Martin
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