Suicide is one of the biggest killers of both men and women worldwide, and it’s only getting worse. On average, a suicide will impact around six people, which unfortunately means most of us will know someone who has taken their own life or attempted to do so. Some of us might even be survivors of a suicide attempt.
Those of us suffering from a mental illness share a path with suicide, whether it’s just the infrequent suicidal thought or planning out a way to do it. Our mental illnesses creep into every aspect of our lives; friendships, relationships, work, social activities, it even impacts us being alone with nothing but our own thoughts. When a disease like that infects you to your core, it’s not hard to see suicide as a viable outlet.
And yet, there are still people who describe suicide as selfish. There remains a stigma that causes us as a society to not only shy away from discussing it but allows sufferers to actually go ahead with it because they have no comfortable outlet or person to talk to. If we become open about suicide, if we start treating it less as something-that-should-not-be-named and more as a demon that should be confronted, then perhaps we can remove the taboo nature and save lives.
Suicide isn’t a pleasant topic to talk about, I know. It has certain overtones, it’s hard to understand if you haven’t been there, and some of us know it too well to talk about it without becoming (understandably) emotional.
There are a lot of myths that surround suicide which often stop us from talking about it or helping those in need, so I thought it would be helpful to demystify common ideas held about suicide.
Myth #1: Talking About Suicide “Plants” The Idea In Someone’s Head.
Allowing someone to talk openly about suicide is not going to encourage them to take their own life, instead, it will help whomever you think might be suicidal to rethink their thoughts and reassess their decisions, which has been proven in multiple studies. Suicidal persons will often have trouble in finding someone to speak to, so having someone reach out to them and raising the subject might just be the support they need. Sufferers keep their thoughts a secret, but once that secret is shared, it loses its potency and can be rationally countered. Suicidal thoughts are merely a symptom of an illness.
If you want to know how to approach someone about your concern, just be direct in asking, “Have you had any suicidal thoughts?”. The bluntness of the question is refreshing to hear but also directly gets to the point.
Myth #2: Once Someone Is Suicidal, There Is Nothing To Be Done.
The idea that once someone has become suicidal, they are destined to stay on a path to their death is absolutely false. There are various levels to suicide, it’s possible to have suicidal thoughts but no further risk of suicide, but alternatively, one who is suicidal might have planned out how they are going to take their own life. This heightened-risk of suicide is often short-term and situation specific, it is not permanent and while suicidal thoughts can and might return, they do not last forever. If that individual has a support network they use to help them cope, encourage them to use it.
Myth #3: Most Suicides Happen Without Warning.
To say no suicide has happened without warning would be incorrect, however, more often than not, there are verbal or behavioural patterns that suicidal people exhibit. There are several indicators that might be signs of someone feeling suicidal. Insomnia, a loss of concentration or loss of enthusiasm, depression, withdrawal from other people and activities, impulsive behaviour, being irritable or agitated, and general risky behaviour are all associated with being suicidal. Keep an eye out and if you see someone you know exhibiting a number of these patterns, approach them and ask them how they’re doing.
Myth #4: Someone Who Is Suicidal Wants To Die.
You might have read that heading and thought “How is that a myth?” It’s a tough one to comprehend if you’ve never been in a suicidal state yourself. You might think that to say someone who is suicidal doesn’t want to die is a contradictory statement, but more often than not, they don’t want to die, they just want the pain to stop. Therefore access to support services at all times is essential. If we can help those suffering realise they don’t want to die but instead understand they just want the pain to subside, it may just save their life. Trying to rationally explain to someone who is suicidal that it’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem is tough, but if you can at least stop them from doing something impulsive, you might just save them.
Myth #5: People Who Talk About Suicide Are Looking For Attention.
There is an idea that people who talk about being suicidal are doing it only for attention, and if they were truly serious and truly suicidal, they would just do it without any fanfare. This is such an unhealthy, disgusting attitude and it disturbs me. If someone is talking to you about suicide, then they are reaching out to you, and that is incredibly hard for them to do. And to be frank, let’s say they are looking for attention, who is to say they’re not deserving of it? We all need to feel wanted, to feel needed, to feel like someone cares about us. So, if a friend does contact you, saying they’re feeling suicidal, and you think they’re looking for attention? Give it to them. If someone reaches out to talk about suicide, take it seriously – always.
Myth #6: People Who Have Attempted Suicide Won’t Do It Again.
This is a common misconception that largely comes from people who have never experienced a mental illness. Much like you can break the same leg twice, you can experience suicidal thoughts and attempt to take your own life more than once. Illnesses like depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and so forth are never truly cured, they are only managed. Which always leaves room for the sufferer to go down that road again. Studies have shown that those who have attempted suicide are significantly more likely to try again. Post-attempt support is incredibly important, ensuring care and making sure it doesn’t happen again. after a suicide attempt is incredibly important, to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.
Myth #7: Depression Is The Cause Of All Suicides.
While those who suffer from a mental illness are much more at risk of suicide, it’s not a prerequisite for taking your own life. Anyone can find themselves at risk, regardless of gender, race, situation, social class. We should not differentiate or be less sympathetic to someone just because of their circumstances. Suicide does not discriminate, neither should we.
Myth #8: Suicide Is Weak And Selfish.
Suicide isn’t selfish, in fact, it’s often seen as the opposite by those suffering, it is seen as selfless. The person feeling suicidal feels like they have become a burden to the friends and family around them, and the only way to solve this problem is to take their own life. They feel we would be better off without them.
I am 22-years-old. I’ve known people I went to primary school with who have taken their own lives. This isn’t just a crisis, it’s an epidemic. I thoroughly believe that by talking about suicide and discussing it in the open, lives can be saved.
Imagine if we never talked about cancer or didn’t offer support to victims of gun crime. How have we for so long let suicide, one of the world’s largest killers, roam freely and claim victim after victim without doing anything to combat it?
One of the most common comments I read when discussing mental health is something along the lines of this:
“I don’t know how to talk to someone who has suicidal thoughts or is suicidal, and I don’t feel like I’m the right person for them to talk to about it because I don’t have the correct answers”.
There are no correct answers, and you don’t need to provide them to help someone. The best thing you can ever offer someone who is suicidal is your support, whether that be talking to them, meeting up with them and walking a dog, or just being around them while they do their daily things. I think many people overestimate what sufferers need, it isn’t always immediate access to a therapist or medical professional, sometimes it’s just meeting up for a drink or watching something on television together. Just listen to them, hold their hand and tell them you are here for them. That simple act enough can save a life.
One person can’t change the world, but you can change the world for one person.
Samaritans – Available 24/7, free support line for those who are struggling. 116 123
HOPELine – Confidential support for under-35s who are having suicidal thoughts.
Mind – Confidential help on varying mental health issues.
Campaign Against Living Miserably – Charity dedicated to preventing male suicide.
ChildLine – Counselling service for children and young people.
YoungMinds – Service for parents and carers who are concerned about a child.
The Mix – Service for 13-25’s about anything that is worrying them.