Myths About Suicide: Understanding the Complex Reality

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by Maddie Kircher
Case Manager
Faces of Hope Foundation

Suicide is a deeply sensitive and complex topic that has far-reaching effects on individuals, families, and communities. It’s a subject that deserves to be approached with care, empathy, and accurate information. 

Unfortunately, misconceptions and myths often cloud the conversation surrounding suicide, hindering meaningful conversations and effective prevention. In this article, we aim to debunk some of the most common myths about suicide and offer you some tools for engaging someone who is experiencing suicidal ideation.

Myth 1: People who talk about suicide are just seeking attention

One of the most harmful myths surrounding suicide is the belief that people who talk about it are just seeking attention and won’t actually go through with it. In reality, expressing suicidal thoughts can be a cry for help and an indication of someone’s emotional distress. Ignoring these statements can lead to tragic consequences. It’s important to take all indicators of suicidal ideation seriously and offer the necessary support.

Myth 2: Asking someone about suicide will just make it worse

There’s a common misconception that asking someone directly about their thoughts of suicide will plant the idea in their minds. However, research and mental health professionals agree that asking someone about their feelings can actually provide an opportunity for open communication and connection. By expressing concern and willingness to listen, we can offer support and potentially help prevent a crisis. This conversation can feel overwhelming, so we’ve included some tips at the end of this article. 

Myth 3: Only certain types of people are at risk for suicide 

Suicide does not discriminate. It can affect individuals of any age, gender, race, socioeconomic status, or background. While certain groups may be more vulnerable due to specific factors, such as LGBTQIA+ youth or military veterans, anyone can be at risk. It’s crucial to recognize the signs of suicidal ideation and provide support to those in need, regardless of their demographic characteristics.

Myth 4: Suicide is not preventable

Suicidal thoughts can be extremely distressing, but they are not permanent. Many individuals who have contemplated suicide and received the right support have gone on to lead fulfilling lives. With proper treatment, therapy, and a supportive network, people can learn to manage their emotional pain and find hope again. Recovery is possible, and it’s essential to provide hope to those struggling by showing them that they are not alone.

What You Can Do

The National institute of Mental Health (NIMH) recommends these five steps you can take to help someone who is struggling with suicidal ideation:

  1. ASK: “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” Research shows that asking someone directly about suicidal ideation can be relieving as they are finally able to express how they feel. 
  2. KEEP THEM SAFE: Limiting someone’s access to dangerous items or places is a huge part of preventing suicide. Asking directly if the at-risk person has a plan and removing their access to dangerous items can make a difference. 
  3. BE THERE: Reminding someone that they are not alone, either by being physically present with them or by talking over the phone. People who have thought about suicide say the most important thing someone can do is to listen, show they care, and offer support. This starts with being present with them. 
  4. HELP THEM CONNECT: You don’t have to do this all on your own. Save and share the Idaho Crisis & Suicide Hotline (988) which is available 24/7 for calls or text. You can also help make a community connection with a mental health professional through Psychology Today
  5. STAY CONNECTED: Staying in touch after a crisis or after being discharged from care can have a positive impact. Studies have shown the number of suicide deaths goes down when someone follows up with the at-risk person.