On World Suicide Prevention Day and beyond, awareness of the realities of suicide can help people see these deaths with more understanding and compassion, realize the importance of helping others get help, and address their mental health issues if they are struggling, says Nami.
Below, experts dispel common myths about suicide.
Myth: Everyone who attempts suicide suffers from a mental condition
One of the myths is that “only some people have suicidal thoughts, and people with mental health conditions,” said clinical psychologist Michael Roysky, senior director of the Newport Healthcare Center for Research and Innovation.
“A lot of people don’t necessarily meet the criteria for a mental health disorder, but in very stressful situations, they lose an important job, find out about infidelity with a long-term partner, and say, ‘Oh, my God.'” I don’t know how I will go on living. “
Other factors can include life stressors such as criminal or legal matters, persecution, eviction, loss of home, grief, devastating or debilitating illness, trauma or other crises, according to NAMI.
Myth: People who attempt suicide are selfish
“There is a derogatory connotation that comes with the word selfish, as if someone usually makes that decision for a fun reason,” Roysky said. “Myopia is perhaps a better way of saying that their focus has become really limited to what is directly in front of them. They are unable to see the larger context of their life history, relationships and dimensions of things.”
According to Roysky, people who attempt suicide or die often want to end their struggles or consider themselves a burden to their loved ones.
“It’s not a selfish piece in the sense of someone making a decision for their own good,” he added. “It’s a decision based on the idea of ’I don’t know how to get out of this moment. I feel very tired. I feel very nervous. I feel so sad because this chance of escape is what I need, and I don’t feel like I have any other choice.”
Myth: People who threaten suicide seek attention
Some people believe that those who express suicidal thoughts are attention seekers, or that they are aware of the empathy they may generate but do not intend to die.
“No matter how you respond to it, you still have to take it seriously that there is a kernel of truth – that this person is really feeling this (and is) struggling a lot,” Roysky said.
Myth: Suicide is a choice
“This is a very big philosophical question: Where does free will come from? Are we the result of our experiences?” Rusky said. The mindset of a person who tends to commit suicide is similar to that of a person with substance use disorder and chronic relapses, he said.
“They don’t deliberately choose substances over their children. They don’t make a decision to harm their physical health, to be a poor employee, a poor citizen, or to engage in illegal behavior,” Rosky said. Because of neurochemical changes, these people have limited ability to make complete choice about what they think is possible and what they can do.
There is some will to suicide, Roysky said, but suicidal thoughts can be so overwhelming that they crowd out everything else.
Myth: Talking about it will lead to or encourage suicide
One of the myths, Rusky said, “is the fear that if you talk about suicide, it will encourage it, and thus people will be ashamed of it.” He added that asking someone about the warning signs you’ve noticed might be embarrassing, but “it doesn’t actually lead to an increase in completed suicides.”
Having honest conversations about suicide can help reduce stigma and enable people to seek help, rethink their options, and share their stories with others, according to NAMI.
Myth: Better mood means suicide risk goes away
“Lifting problems seemingly may mean that the person has made a firm decision to commit suicide and is feeling better because of that decision,” she says.
The biggest predictor of risk for later attempts, Rossky said, are previous suicide attempts or the presence of family members or friends who have attempted suicide.
He added that the way loved ones and experts respond to someone’s suicide attempt may provide temporary relief or spur support efforts. But what initially prompted a person to attempt suicide may still play out.
In addition, there is sometimes an “escalation in the lethality of the means,” Rossky said.
Myth: You can’t stop someone from attempting suicide
Sometimes people think asking someone about suicide is pointless because they’re going to do it anyway, said Justin Baker, clinical director of the Suicide and Trauma Reduction Initiative for Veterans at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
But Becker added that some research has found that people can view stalled or survived attempts as a “new lease on life.”
There is a similar myth that “once an individual commits suicide, they will always be suicidal,” according to the NAMI website.
But Baker said there are factors that can influence the level or likelihood of suicide risk. NAMI says that history of self-injurious behavior and genetic makeup are static factors, while dynamic factors are constantly changing because they are situation-specific.
NAMI says suicide is “often an attempt to control deep, distressing feelings and thoughts.” “Once these thoughts dissipate, so do suicidal thoughts. While suicidal thoughts can return, they are not permanent. An individual who has had suicidal thoughts and attempts can live a long and successful life.”
“People usually do what they want to do,” Roysky admitted.
“But there are things we can do along the way that help mitigate some of the issues that are happening to them,” he said. “Having this sense of different signs of possible suicide is helpful.”