Debunking Common Suicide Myths
Is someone you know struggling with suicidal thoughts or mental illness? CBHA can help. Our team of counselors and psychiatric nurse practitioner are highly trained to assess and treat suicide ideation and potentially related mental health issues as well as crises interventions.
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Suicide affects people from every walk of life. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that each year more than one million people die from suicide. Globally, that’s one death every 40 seconds. It is predicted that by the year 2020, the rate of death will increase to one every 20 seconds.
In the past year, in the United States alone, more than 41,000 people died by suicide. 1.3 million attempted suicide. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US for all ages (CDC). For every completed suicide, there are an estimated 25 attempts. In the elderly, there is one suicide for every estimated four suicide attempts (CDC). Despite these staggering numbers, there are many misconceptions about suicide. Below are just a few:
MYTH: People who talk about suicide don’t actually follow through with it.
FACT: Nearly every person who has died by suicide has talked about it at some point before their death. Even if it appears the mention of death or suicide is a joke, always take talk of suicide seriously. It’s far better to be overly cautious than to ignore the signs.
MYTH: A person who attempts suicide is trying to get attention.
FACT: Anyone who would risk their life to get attention is in need of attention – specifically professional help, but also the compassion and concern of loved ones. Those who’ve attempted suicide in the past are automatically at greater risk of dying by suicide.
MYTH: People who die by suicide are selfish. They’re taking the easy way out.
FACT: People who die by suicide have often suffered in silence for a long time, and simply want to end the suffering. Others are in extreme crises and see no way out. The suffering is deep, and the feelings of helplessness or hopelessness seem are overwhelming. Many even feel that the world is better off without them. They are not simply “thinking of themselves” but are experiencing a serious mental health symptom due to mental illness, crises, or other painful life situation.
MYTH: Talking about suicide could inadvertently push someone to attempt it.
FACT: Silence or unwillingness to talk about suicide does nothing to help someone who is considering suicide. But openly discussing the topic can make a positive difference. It also helps reduce the stigma attached to suicide and mental illness.
MYTH: Most suicides happen without warning.
FACT: There are quite often warning signs that precede suicide. Many who attempt suicide may demonstrate warning signs only around those closest to them. If these loved ones don’t recognize what’s going on, the attempt or completed suicide can seem sudden. This is one reason it’s important to learn and understand the warning signs.
MYTH: Once a person has decided to end their life, there is nothing that will change their mind.
FACT: Experts know from studying suicide attempt survivors that most are ambivalent until the very last moment leading to the attempt. The majority do not want to die; they merely want to end their suffering. Knowing there’s hope and that they could feel better with professional help could make all the difference. It’s one more reason to be open about the topic and let loved ones know that you care.
COMMON RISK FACTORS OR WARNING SIGNS FOR SUICIDE ATTEMPTS
• Previous suicide attempt(s)
• Family history of suicide, abuse, and/or mental disorders
• Underlying psychiatric or mood disorder
• Experience of traumatic life event
• Giving away belongings or items of special meaning or significance
• Obtaining a weapon or other means of self-harm
• Engaging in risky or dangerous behavior
• Loss of interest in people, things, places or activities one once enjoyed
• Talking about wanting to die or kill oneself
• Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
• Talking about being a burden to others
• Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
• Acting anxious, agitated, or reckless
• Sleeping too little or too much
• Withdrawing or isolating
• Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
• Displaying extreme mood swings
• Conflict about sexual identity and/or conflict in personal relationships that may worsen feelings of shame or isolation
Source: NAMI National Alliance on Mental Illness