FACTS AND MYTHS ABOUT SUICIDE
SUICIDE mhn! Why would someone want to die or threaten to take their own lives? That was always a question I asked myself. I remember during my college years however much someone opened up to me, I was careful not to ask whether they had thoughts of taking their own lives. I wondered if that would provoke them to think or even do it. Over the years of practice, I have learned a lot about suicide. Here are some of the myths and facts about suicide.
MYTH: Talking about suicide or asking someone if they feel suicidal will encourage suicide attempts.
FACT: Talking about suicide provides them the opportunity to express their fears and thoughts. Most times many of my patients’ break down when that question comes up. However, talking about suicide should be carefully managed.
MYTH: Young people who talk about suicide never attempt or die by suicide.
FACT: Talking about suicide can be a cry for help and it can be a late sign in the progression towards a suicide attempt. Those who are most at risk will show other signs apart from talking about suicide. Some of the signs include suicide notes, social withdrawal, diminished energy to do daily activities, etc
MYTH: A sealed note with the request for the note not to be opened should be kept that way
FACT: This could be is a very strong indicator that something is seriously not right. While it is important to keep promises. Where harm is questioned, confidentiality should be broken. A sealed note could be a suicide note.
MYTH: If a person attempts suicide and survives, they will never make a further attempt.
FACT: While some attempts have many some patients never to attempt suicide, A suicide attempt could be regarded as an indicator of further attempts. It is likely that the level of danger will increase with each further suicide attempt.
MYTH: Once a person is intent on suicide, there is no way of stopping them.
FACT: Suicidal crises can be relatively short-lived. Immediate practical help such as staying with the person, encouraging them to talk and helping them build plans for the future, taking them for therapy, can avert the intention to attempt or die by suicide.
MYTH: People who threaten suicide are just seeking attention.
FACT: All suicide attempts must be treated as though the person has the intent to die. Do not dismiss a suicide attempt as simply being an attention-gaining device. It is likely the young person has tried to gain attention and, therefore, this attention is needed. The attention they get may well save their lives.
MYTH: Suicide is hereditary and a curse.
FACT: Although suicide can be over-represented in families, attempts are not genetically inherited. Members of families share the same emotional environment, and the death by suicide of one family member may well raise the awareness of suicide as an option for other family members. No studies have shown a cultural relationship between suicide and culture
MYTH: Suicide is for rich people.
FACT: Everyone is prone to suicide attempts or death. Evidence shows different predisposing conditions may lead to either suicide attempts or deaths. There is not enough evidence for the relationship between social economic status and suicide
MYTH: Suicide is painless.
FACT: Many suicide methods are very painful. Fictional portrayals of suicide do not usually include the reality of the pain.
MYTH: All young people with thoughts of suicide are depressed.
FACT: While depression is a contributory factor in most suicides, it need not be present for a person to attempt or die by suicide. Other causes could be psychotic illnesses, impulsivity among others.
MYTH: Marked and sudden improvement in the mental state of someone following a suicidal crisis or depressive period signifies the suicide risk is over.
FACT: While that may be the case sometimes, the opposite may be true. The apparent lifting of the problems could mean the person has made a firm decision to die by suicide and feels better because of this decision.
Myth 5: Young children, ages 5 through 12, cannot be suicidal
Young children do take their lives. In the United States each year, about 30 to 35 children under the age of 12 take their own lives. No suicidal ideation or attempt should be taken for granted; some children have died accidentally even when suicide intent was not there.
Myth. People ‘commit suicide’
FACT: As with most things in life, choice of words do really matter. For so long many people have regarded others as having “committed suicide. This language portrays suicide as a sin or a criminal act. The word “commit” is attached to negative acts such as “commit adultery” or “commit murder.” To begin to break the stigma surrounding suicide we have to change the way we think and talk about it. Suicide though sad is not a crime. So rather than saying “committed suicide,” phrases such as “died by/from suicide” or “took their life,’ destigmatize suicide.
Monica N. Nguata
MSc. Clinical Psychology