Suicide Myths

Suicide Myths

Many myths have developed about suicide and those who engage in suicidal behaviors. The following are the most common myths and are NOT TRUE:

People who talk about suicide don't go through with it.

FALSE. Most people who die by suicide have talked about it with someone prior to their death. People who talk about suicide or exhibit serious signs of suicide are at greater risk for completing suicide. In fact, talking about suicide can be one of the later signs of a progression toward suicide. Always take any comment about suicide seriously. It is better to overestimate suicide risk and get help than to underestimate the risk and take no action.

Everyone who dies by suicide is depressed.

FALSE. While it has been estimated that about 75% of everyone who dies by suicide has a depressive disorder (frequently undiagnosed); there are those who did not meet the criteria for depression. Substance abuse, extreme stress with few coping skills, and rage are some of the other factors connected to a suicidal death.

Suicidal people are fully intent on dying.

FALSE. Suicidal people do not want to be dead as much as they want relief from the emotional pain they experience. Even the most despairing person has mixed feelings about choosing to live or choosing to die. People who have made serious attempts have talked about feeling ambivalent about their actions until the very last moment. The impulse to end it all, even when very strong, does not last forever, but if acted on in that moment, has permanent results. As long as a person is alive, we can assume there is some will to live. This is why intervention with someone who is despairing is so critical.

Marked sudden improvement in the emotional state after a person has made a suicide attempt or a depressive period indicates that the suicide risk is over.

FALSE. In the months following an attempt or a period of depression, a person is at greater risk than ever. What looks to be an improvement may in fact be a sense of relief in the person who has committed to suicide.

Asking someone if they are thinking about suicide may plant the idea in their minds.

FALSE. Suicide is a much more complicated process than this. If the person is not suicidal they can tell you that. Then you can be supportive in helping them work through their distress and finding resources for longer term support. But if they are suicidal, expressing your concern by asking them about suicide will be helpful. Often the suicidal person is certain that no one understand how desperate they feel. By demonstrating your empathy for them in this way, they will feel less isolated and experience the possibility that others may be helpful.

If you are concerned that you or someone you know may be at risk for suicide, we strongly encourage you to do one or more of the following:


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