There are a number of myths related to suicide and many people find it difficult to separate fact from fiction. We will look at some of the most common misunderstandings:
- 1. Suicide only happens to dysfunctional families or people who are struggling
The truth is, people who consider or commit suicide come from a variety of backgrounds - suicide affects all races, faiths, ages, cultures, income levels, professions etc. It can happen to people who seem to have everything — those with good jobs, successful students, people with nice homes and loving families, those with excellent health etc. And it can also happen to people who are struggling, who lose their job, or who have financial difficulties, or who are sick or lonely.
There is no special type of person that commits suicide. There may be trends, but it can happen to anyone and affect any family.
- 2. Talking about suicide will put the idea in people’s heads
Talking about suicide does not encourage suicidal behaviour. On the contrary, talking about the subject of depression and suicide brings it out into the open and can help those who are considering suicide to talk about their problems. Those who aren’t suicidal will not be affected by the discussion. In fact, it will even enable them to understand the issue and spot suicidal tendencies in others.
It is important that any discussion does not glamorise or sensationalise suicide. Instead, suicide should be presented in a factual way, with questions answered honestly and sensitively.
- 3. People who attempt suicide are just trying to get attention
This is a common misconception. Many people think that someone who makes an unsuccessful suicide attempt is merely attention-seeking and should be ignored. In fact, people who attempt suicide very often go on to make a successful attempt. A person who attempts suicide is in mental and emotional pain and needs urgent help.
- 4. There are no real signs that someone is suicidal
This is not true. There are in fact a number of signs that someone is thinking of committing suicide such as:
- They talk about suicide and death such as “By tomorrow I’ll be gone” or “You’ll all be better off without me”
- There is a sudden change in behaviour — e.g. sleeping habits (sleeping far more or less than usual), appearance (no longer care about their appearance), eating habits (eating more or less than usual)
- They have suffered a loss — the death of a relative, the break up of a relationship, a divorce or separation
- They become withdrawn from friends and family and want to be left alone
- They have attempted suicide before, and there may be a history of suicide attempts
- They give away treasured possessions
- They may use alcohol or drugs for the first time, or overindulge in them
- They are unusually violent, disobedient, defiant
- They talk about feeling worthless, hopeless, unlovable etc
- 5. It is impossible to prevent suicide if someone is determined to end their life
Most people feel depressed at some point in their life, and suicidal thoughts are not uncommon, particularly for young people. But most people recover swiftly and these negative thoughts do not linger. For those who do not make a full recovery, help is available from a variety of sources. It is important to help the person realise that it is not their life they want to end, but their current situation.
With intervention and practical help, most people can recover and the suicidal thoughts will eventually pass. Even if someone is determined to end their life, it is vital that everything is done to try to prevent it.