Suicide is currently in the top 10 list of leading causes of death in the United States according to the CDC. Over 47,000 individuals lost their lives as a result of suicide. Even more tragic is that suicide is the second leading cause of death in individuals between the ages of 10-34 and fourth leading cause in ages 35-54. In the U.S. and across the globe, suicide is a major public health concern and is on the rise. More people lose their lives due to suicide than homicide.
Sadly, society continues to stigmatize those who consider or attempt suicide. Suicide is still considered a taboo topic, and open conversations about suicide are discouraged or full of misconceptions. As part of Suicide Prevention Month, we’d like to bust open some myths about suicide and give you the facts.
Myth: A suicidal person will always be suicidal
Truth: Risk for suicide is typically short-term and situation-specific. Suicidal thoughts might come back, but they are usually not permanent and a person with a history of suicidal thoughts can go on to live a long, successful life. Previous suicidal thoughts do increase the risk of future suicide, but the majority of individuals only have one episode of suicidal ideation or a single attempt. A vast majority do not attempt suicide again.
Myth: It’s impossible to tell if someone is suicidal
Truth: There are many risk factors we can pay attention to. Individuals who suffer from mood disorders are at the greatest risk, especially in the first five years of having the disorder. Suffering from schizophrenia, alcohol abuse, or a deterioration in psychological functioning also puts people at risk. Other risk factors to look for are making a will, giving away belongings, or talking about suicide.
Myth: Mental Health Professionals can always prevent a patient from attempting suicide
Truth: While skilled therapists know what risk factors to look for and how to properly evaluate their patients, sometimes patients don’t readily show signs or admit that they are thinking about taking their own life. Often, a therapist is the last person they are likely to tell. However, if a therapist does believe a patient is of harm to themselves or others, they are required to take action.
Myth: Talking to a person about suicide or asking them about feeling suicidal will only encourage them.
Truth: Often individuals with mood disorders fail to seek the support of others. Talking with someone about suicide instead gives them the chance to show another person what their thoughts and mood are. It helps them communicate that they are in distress and need the support of another. Individuals who have support and encouragement have something to live for, and sharing feelings can help these feelings to decrease. However, if someone reaches out to you, it is still important to get in touch with a trained professional.
Myth: Only People with Mental Health Conditions Are Affected
Truth: In 2018, the CDC reported that 54% of those who die byted sucicide did not have known mental health disorders. Other factors that can contribute to attempted suicides are:
- Substance abuse
- Relationship problems
- Financial, legal, or employment problems
- Physical health issues that impact quality of life
Myth: Only adults are suicidal
Truth: Sadly, research has shown that children as young as 5 die by suicide each year (Sheftall, Asti, Horowitz, Felts, Fontanella, Campo & Bridge, 2016). Suicide is also the second leading cause of death in children ages 10-14.
Suicide doesn’t need to remain a taboo topic of discussion. Myths and misconceptions may lead individuals to not reach out or not receive any help with they are in crisis. Accurate information might save the life of a friend or family member.
If you or a loved one are in crisis, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifelife at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is available to anyone and all calls are confidential. www.suicidepreventionlifelife.org.