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Suicide Unmasked: 5 Myths about Suicide Debunked


DISCLAIMER: This blog article contains discussion of suicide. If you or someone you know might be struggling with suicidal thoughts, you can call the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or 1-800-273-8255, text at 741741, or chat online at 988lifeline.org.


Last week, we discussed together the sensitive topic of suicide and emphasized the importance of open dialogue and responsible reporting. Our article last week acknowledged that discussing suicide is often avoided but also highlighted the rising suicide rates in the United States and globally, stressing the need for awareness and understanding of this public health issue. We explored the power of language, that certain terminology can be stigmatizing and harmful. We updated our lexicon learning that we should avoid phrases like "committed suicide" and instead use "died by suicide" to remove the implication of wrongdoing. We learned to discard phrases such as "successful suicide" or "failed attempt at suicide" as we shouldn't be viewing suicide in terms of success or failure. Hopefully, last week's article has you on the path to understanding suicide more. This week we are going to delve a little further and hopefully debunk several myths and misconceptions surrounding suicide that can perpetuate stigma, hinder prevention efforts, and discourage those in need from seeking help.



Myth 1: Bringing It Up Plants the Idea

As discussed in our previous article, talking about death or grieving is difficult. It feels awkward and uncomfortable and generally riddled with the pervasive feeling that we are going to say the wrong thing. With all of the taboos, stigmas, and misconceptions about suicide, this discussion is doubly hard. Whether you are a parent, a teacher, a clergyperson, a brother or sister, or an aunt or uncle, we feel at a loss and unqualified to even bring up the subject. We worry that discussing suicide with someone who may be at risk will plant the idea in their mind.

FACT: Talking openly and empathetically about suicide can create a safe space for individuals to express their feelings and seek help. Do NOT beat around the bush. It's important to ask directly if someone is feeling suicidal, as it shows you care and are willing to listen and support them. "Are you thinking about hurting yourself?" "Are you thinking about suicide?" or "Do you have access to weapons or things that can be used as weapons to harm yourself?"


Myth 2: They Just Want Attention

This one is quite sad for me to hear, and I can almost understand the sentiment behind it. Again, suicide is an uncomfortable subject for those who hear it and for those who are experiencing the distressing thoughts about doing it. To hear someone say it, but then nothing happens. Then to hear them say it again, but then nothing happens. This may go on for 2 or 3 or 10 or 20 times and nothing happens. Situations like these can lead people to believe that the person isn't really serious, they are just enjoying the attention. One of the most harmful misconceptions about suicide is that individuals who express thoughts or intentions of self-harm are merely seeking attention.

FACT: While it is true that some people may use such expressions to garner attention, dismissing them as attention-seeking behaviors can be dangerous. Many individuals who talk about suicide are genuinely struggling with overwhelming emotional pain and desperately need support. Some others are taking these times to sike themselves up into actually taking action but are struggling because there is a part of them that is scared and doesn't really want to. DO take any mention of suicide seriously and offer help even if this is the 50th time. You may help save a life.


Myth 3: Suicide Only Affects People Who Are Depressed Or Mentally Ill

This was one of the hardest things I had to grapple with as I completed my studies in counseling and psychology. I too had a preconceived notion that people who die by suicide are clinically depressed or have some other mental illness. While depression is a significant risk factor for suicide, not all individuals who contemplate suicide have clinical depression. Mental health conditions like bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and substance abuse issues can also increase the risk. However, suicide does not just affect those with depression or other mental illnesses.

FACT: Many individuals with mental illness are not affected by suicidal thoughts. A person can indeed have depression and never have a thought of suicide. Not all people who attempt or die by suicide have depression or some other mental illness. Relationship problems, criminal or legal issues, persecution, loss of housing, death of a loved one, diagnosis of a debilitating illness, certain medications (i.e. asthma or allergy medications or even MS drugs), trauma, sexual abuse, or even rejection can be associated with suicidal thoughts or attempts, or deaths.


Myth 4: They Are Selfish, Cowards, & Took The Easy Way Out

Have you ever made a rash decision? One that if the circumstances were different and you had more time to clear your head, the choice or decision you made would have been different? If you haven't then you my dear are the blueprint to perfection, and I need to sit down and study at your feet. If you are human, you have made one, or two, or thirty rash decisions that you normally would not have. If someone criticized the choices you made and demanded a why from you, chances are, you would struggle with an explanation. Sometimes the explanation isn't simple and there are many complex variables. Labeling individuals who have attempted or died by suicide as selfish oversimplifies a deeply complex issue. Suicide is often the result of severe emotional distress and mental anguish, which can impair a person's ability to think rationally. Many individuals who contemplate suicide are not making a clear, conscious choice; rather, they are grappling with overwhelming emotions and a feeling of hopelessness. They are drowning in their anguish-anguish about their situations, anguish about living, anguish about dying, anguish at how their continued existence is hurting the people they love.

FACT: Usually, people do not die by suicide because they do not want to live. They do it because they want to stop their unbearable pain. These individuals are going through such a tough time that they feel completely powerless and without hope. Even more, their brain begins to convince them that the people they love the most would actually be better off without them. That continuing to live is burdening and hurting those they love the most.


Myth 5: There Was No Warning

Suicide does not discriminate based on age, gender, race, or socioeconomic status. It is a widespread issue that can touch the lives of people from all walks of life. Two famous people come to mind when I think of this particular myth. One was a brilliant, accomplished actor and comedian. The other brought joy to our lives through dance. To us outsiders looking in, these tragedies were sudden and without warning. Maybe even to their families too. It initially seemed that there was no warning that something like this could ever happen. Many individuals who have survived suicide attempts later report feeling relieved that they did not succeed. When you know what to look for, getting timely help through therapy, crisis hotlines, and support from friends and family, can make a significant difference in helping someone reconsider their decision. However, you have to know what to look for and be willing to ask those tough, uncomfortable questions listed before: "Are you thinking about hurting yourself?" "Are you thinking about suicide?" or "Do you have access to weapons or things that can be used as weapons to harm yourself?"

​FACT: There is no crystal ball to predict suicide. However, suicide is preventable. There are almost always warning signs (both verbal signs and behavioral signs) before a suicide attempt. Often, people who are thinking about suicide may only show signs of their struggle to those who are closest to them. These loved ones might not realize what's happening, which can make it seem like the suicide came out of nowhere. Therefore, it’s important to learn and understand the warnings signs associated with suicide which we will explore together in next week's article.


Think of a myth I might have missed? Please share it in the comments below. Also looking for everyone who reaches this article to please, look up your LOCAL crisis number and leave it in the comments below.


Suicide was responsible for 48,183 deaths in 2021, which is about one death every 11 minutes. Meaning in the time it takes you to read this blog article and last week's article, a person has died by suicide. Myths and misconceptions about suicide can hinder our ability to address this pressing issue effectively. It's crucial to debunk these misconceptions, nurture understanding, nurture compassion, and have open conversations. By recognizing the complexities of suicide, we can better support those at risk and work collectively to reduce its prevalence and devastating impact on individuals, families, and communities. If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, reach out to a mental health professional or a crisis hotline immediately. And as always, please remember. Wherever you are on this wellness journey, do not worry about getting it perfect; just get it going. Take care of yourselves and take care of each other. Until next time. Happy reading.


"To the world you may be just one person, but to one person you may be the world." ~Brandi Snyder
 

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6 Comments


This is a tough topic BUT also a much needed one! I’ve had people very close to me that I have had to keep a watch on and ask those very hard questions to. I’ve also known a family who lost their husband and dad to suicide. I don’t think this can be talked about enough and I think a lot of people are misinformed for sure. Thank you for writing this one!

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Replying to

It's indeed a difficult subject, but one that deserves attention and understanding. I'm sorry to hear about the challenges you've faced with your loved ones and the loss experienced by the family you mentioned. Your insight highlights the importance of open dialogue and education surrounding mental health and suicide prevention. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts so openly.

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Katherine McLee
Katherine McLee
Sep 20, 2023

Posts like these are so important. It's so important to talk openly about it! The one every 11 minutes really makes it hit home. Thank you for sharing this!

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Letecia Griffin
Letecia Griffin
Sep 24, 2023
Replying to

It is a very important topic. I am honored to bring it to everyone. Thank you for sharing your thoughts Katherine!

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Tiann Jackson
Tiann Jackson
Sep 20, 2023

Very informative. I believed some of the myths until it hit my family which made me learn more about suicide and mental health. Great post!

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Letecia Griffin
Letecia Griffin
Sep 20, 2023
Replying to

I hope your family member is doing well today. 💜

We need more people like you who actively inform themselves about these myths so that maybe they can help be an anchor for someone who is struggling.

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