Debunking common myths about suicide

There are several myths and misconceptions about suicide. Understanding the facts can help you be informed and support those you love. 

MYTH: Attempted and completed suicides often happen without warning.

FACT: More often, the warning signs are not recognized, or the threat is ignored.

MYTH: People who talk about suicide never attempt or complete suicide.

FACT: Talking about suicide may be a plea for help or part of the preparation phase of ‘placing things in order’ before the actual act. If it includes other warning signs, the person may be at greater risk.

MYTH: Once a person decides to attempt suicide, there is no way to stop them.

FACT: Suicides can be prevented and people who contemplate suicide can be helped. A suicidal crisis is usually short-lived. Through support and intervention (counseling and/or medications) treatment can be effective.

MYTH: People who attempt suicide and fail are just seeking attention; they seldom ever try it again.

FACT: Any attempt at suicide is a sign of deep emotional disturbance brought on by feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and alienation. Most people who succeed in taking their lives have made several attempts.

MYTH: All acts of suicide are done on the spur of the moment, with no previous planning.

FACT: Most suicides are carefully planned, days, even weeks or months in advance.

MYTH: Everyone has wide swings of emotion, but teenagers are particularly susceptible to emotional ups and downs.

FACT: Problems often take on a ‘life and death’ seriousness for teens because they don’t understand that things will get better. To an adolescent, time exists only in terms of now. Being rejected by friends, divorcing parents, the death of a loved one, a broken love affair, a deep disappointment — all give rise to a sense of pain and loss, and can prompt thoughts of suicide.

MYTH: When a suicidal person’s depression improves and spirits lift, then there is no need for further concern.

FACT: When a suicidal person’s depression suddenly lifts and spirits improve, there is no guarantee that the danger has passed. A calm, relaxed mood may be a signal that the person has found inner peace and the energy to carry out suicide plan.

How to help

If you notice changes in your child, family member or friend, a health care provider will be able to determine if they are at risk for suicide and can recommend treatment. Knowing exactly when the symptoms started will help your doctor determine why they started and how to proceed with tests and diagnosis.

Depending on the outcome of your loved one’s assessments, treatment options might include: seeking a mental health professional’s counsel, participating in a substance abuse program and taking medications.

There are several resources available if you need extra support or if you or someone you know is in crisis:

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Recognizing the warning signs of suicide
Recognizing the warning signs of suicide

Friends and family may be the first to see the warning signs of suicide. Learn more about when to seek help.

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Conditions that can put your loved one at higher risk for suicide
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