Suicide - Facts and Fables

Here are some common misunderstandings about suicide

suicide is painless
many suicide methods are very painful. Fictional portrayals of suicide do not usually include the reality of the pain.

most suicides occur with little or no warning.
Fact: some suicides in young people are impulsive reactions to a loss, or a humiliation. But even in these cases, warning signs and/or prior problems (e.g. low self esteem), are likely to have been visible before an attempt. There is evidence that people considering suicide often tell their friends of their thoughts and plans.

Fable: anyone who tries to end their life is ‘crazy’.
Fact: most suicidal people are likely to be extremely distressed, despairing, depressed,  grief stricken or in emotional pain – and are not  ‘crazy’.

Fable: if a person is determined to take their own life it is because they want to die.
Fact: even the most determined person has mixed feelings about death, moving back and forth between wanting to die and wanting to live. Above all, most people want their emotional pain to stop. With help, a person can be supported back towards wanting to live. The majority of suicidal people give clues about their intent to die. If they were intent on dying, they wouldn’t communicate any intention. 

Fable: suicidal people are fully intent on dying
Fact: most suicidal people are undecided about living or dying, & they "gamble with death' leaving it to others to save them. Almost no one commits suicide without letting others know how he is feeling.

Fable: talking about suicide might give someone the idea.
Fact: studies prove that bringing up the issue of suicide with a suicidal person and talking openly about it is one of the most helpful things you can do, it shows you are concerned about a person and willing to listen. Allowing people to speak openly about suicide will likely reduce the risk of suicide rather than give them the idea to try it. Talking will allow the person to reveal their level of anxiety and make it easier for them to express their thoughts and feelings. When someone talks about suicide it is a cry for help and not a wish to die. Help must be given. Talking together about what the person is feeling lets them know you care and that you want to support them. 

Fable: people who think about suicide are just being selfish.
Fact: at times it might feel like the person is being selfish, but mostly they are so overwhelmed by their emotional distress that their ability to manage things is not what it usually is. What they really need is help to come back into balance again. 

Fable: people who talk about suicide don't commit suicide.
Fact: of any ten persons who kill themselves, eight have given definite warnings of their suicidal intentions. These warnings may be spoken or they may be actions. Anyone who talks about suicide needs to be taken seriously. 

Fable: once a person is suicidal, he is suicidal forever.
Fact: individuals who wish to kill themselves are suicidal only for a limited period of time. Given proper help and support there is every chance they will recover.

Fable: improvement following a suicidal crisis means that the suicidal risk is over
Fact: most suicides occur within about 3 months following the beginning of “improvement", when the individual has the energy to put his morbid thoughts & feelings into effect. It may also be because the person has made a definite decision to suicide and feels better because of this.

Fable: suicide strikes much more often among the rich; or conversely, it occurs almost exclusively among the poor.
Fact: suicide is neither the rich man's disease nor the poor man's curse. Suicide is very "democratic", represented proportionately among all levels of society.

Fable: suicide is inherited or "runs in the family"
Fact: suicide is an individual pattern.

Fable: all suicidal individuals are mentally ill, and suicide always is the act of a psychotic disorder.
Fact: studies of hundreds of genuine suicide notes indicate that, although the suicidal person is extremely unhappy, he is not necessarily mentally ill.

Fable: deep religious faith makes suicide impossible
Fact: the despair and hopelessness accompanying severe depressive illness, can undermine faith. Godly patients have looked me in the eye and told me despairingly: "my faith has gone." Such is the vulnerability of our bodies and brains to minute chemical changes, and so delicate is the balance between madness and sanity, that the strongest christians can become victims of suicidal despair.

Fable: if you promise to keep someone’s suicidal plan “a secret” you should always keep that promise.
Fact:   this is one secret you cannot keep. You may lose a friendship temporarily, but you may save your friend’s life.

Fable: suicidal thoughts and behavious are rare in young people.
Fact:  a study by Horwood and Fergusson showed that up to 25% of young people in NZ may hold suicidal thoughts with the majority not acting on them. A 1999 survey of a Central Otago school showed that 4% of pupils surveyed had attempted to commit suicide during the previous year. This is thought to be 1% lower than the national average.

all suicidal young people are depressed. 
while depression is a contributory factor in most suicides it need not be present for suicide to be attempted or completed. 

Fable: there is a typical person who commits suicide
Fact:  everyone has the potential to commit suicide. Although research has identified clear warning signs and risk factors associated with suicide and attempted suicide, these do not have to be present and there is no typical person who is likely to complete suicide. Research has also shown that many people who have committed suicide have symptoms of depression. However, an Auckland study showed that only 10% of people who completed suicide had been involved with mental health services.