Common Myths About Suicide Debunked

Fact: Suicide is not always about mental illness.

Posted Jun 12, 2018

“I’m the girl nobody knows until she commits suicide. Then suddenly everyone had a class with her.”
Tom Leveen, Party

An alarming rise in depression and anxiety and a 30% rise in suicides since 1999 point to a major crisis in our culture. Across the globe, one in four people is affected by a mental health condition or neurological disorder in their lifetime. About one in five Americans are facing a mental health problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in regards to suicide, within the past year, about 1.3 million adults have attempted suicide, 2.7 million adults have had a plan to attempt suicide, and 9.3 million adults have had suicidal thoughts. Above all, these concerns do not discriminate from person to person. Suicide affects all people regardless of age, gender, socioeconomic status, nationality, etc.

Myth: Suicide only affects individuals with a mental health disorder

Truth: Many individuals with mental illness are not affected by suicide and not all people who attempt or commit suicide have a mental health disorder. Relationship problems and other life stressors such as criminal/legal matters, persecution, eviction/loss of home, the death of a loved one, a devastating or debilitating illness, trauma, sexual abuse, rejection, and recent or impending crises are also associated with suicidal ideations and suicidal attempts.

Myth: Once an individual is suicidal, he or she will always remain suicidal.

Truth: Active suicidal ideations are often short-term and situation specific. The act of suicide is often a desperate attempt to control the deep hurtful emotions and thoughts the individual is experiencing. Once these thoughts dissipate, so will the suicidal ideations. While suicidal thoughts can return, they are not permanent. An individual with previous suicidal thoughts and attempts can go on to live a long successful life.

Myth: The majority of suicides happen suddenly without warning.

Truth: Warning signs either verbally or behaviorally precede most suicides and therefore it is important to learn and understand the warnings signs associated with suicide. Many individuals who are suicidal may only show warning signs to those individuals closest to them and these individuals could be in denial or may not recognize the warning signs.

Warning signs associated with suicide

  • Feeling or appearing to feel trapped or hopeless
  • Feeling intolerable emotional pain
  • Having or appearing to have an abnormal preoccupation with violence, dying, or death
  • Having mood swings, either happy or sad
  • Talking about revenge, guilt, or shame
  • Being agitated, or in a heightened state of anxiety
  • Experiencing changes in personality, routine, or sleeping patterns
  • Consuming drugs or more alcohol than usual, or starting drinking when they had not previously done so.
  • Engaging in risky behavior, such as driving carelessly or taking drugs
  • Getting their affairs in order and giving things away
  • Getting hold of a gun, medications, or substances that could end a life
  • Experiencing depression, panic attacks, impaired concentration
  • Increased isolation
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Psychomotor agitation, such as pacing around a room, wringing one's hands, and removing items of clothing and putting them back on
  • Saying goodbye to others as if it were the last time
  • Seeming to be unable to experience pleasurable emotions from normally pleasurable life events such as eating, exercise, social interaction, or sex
  • Severe remorse and self-criticism
  • Talking about suicide or dying, expressing regret about being alive or ever having been born

Myth: People who commit suicide are selfish and take the easy way out

Truth: Individuals who commit suicide do so not because they do not want to live or end their life but because they want to end their suffering. These individuals are suffering so deep that they feel helpless and hopeless. “Killing oneself is, anyway, a misnomer. We don’t kill ourselves. We are simply defeated by the long, hard struggle to stay alive. When somebody dies after a long illness, people are apt to say, with a note of approval, “He fought so hard.” And they are inclined to think, about a suicide, that no fight was involved, that somebody simply gave up. This is quite wrong.”
Sally Brampton, Shoot the Damn Dog: A Memoir of Depression

Myth: Talking about suicide can lead to and encourage suicide.

Truth: There is a widespread stigma associated with suicide and as a result, many people are afraid to speak about it. Talking about suicide not only reduces the stigma but also allows individuals to seek help, rethink their opinions, and share their story with others. We all need to talk more about suicide.

Myth: Suicides coincide with impulsivity

Truth: Individuals contemplate, imagine it, fantasize about it, write suicide notes, post things on the Internet and after many days or weeks, they then perhaps make a fatal attempt. There is usually a plan for suicide and warning signs that many people often miss.  

This post is dedicated to every individual who has contemplated suicide, attempted suicide or who has left this world because of suicide. Suicide affects every race, religion, culture, generation, and gender. May you find inner peace and love in a world full of hate, racism, and trauma.