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Suicide Myths: Focus on the Facts

February 2020 

Here we’ll look at some of the more common suicide myths or  misconceptions and focus on the facts, what’s really happening and what we can all do to help.

While suicide awareness and prevention has come a long way over the past decade, many suicide myths still exist. As a result, as well as being incorrect, theses myths can stop us recognising when someone is at risk and in need of support.

For this month’s blog, we are highlighting six common misconceptions about suicide and sharing the facts you can use to bust these suicide myths.

MYTH #1: Talking about suicide might put the idea in their head

FACT: Many people believe that talking about suicide will make the situation worse or ‘put the idea in their head’. But that’s not the case — this myth stops people from reaching out. We can’t make things worse by sharing a burden. Often, if the suicide decision or plan is discussed with someone in a care-giving and helpful capacity, this can stop the immediate risk for a period of time and open up an opportunity for them to get help. Hence, the only way you can make things worse is by saying nothing or avoiding the subject.

MYTH #2: People who talk about suicide don’t go through with it.

FACT: Not in all cases, but statistically, those who are at risk of suicide actively (and sometimes passively) invite others to help, aid and retain their desire to live. So, even if they mention death or suicide in a sarcastic or joking manner, or when under the influence of alcohol, always take talk of suicide seriously. It’s far better to be overly cautious than to ignore the signs. Above all, follow up any hints or disclosures.

MYTH #3: A person who attempts suicide is trying to get attention.

FACT: Anyone who would risk their life to get attention is certainly in need of attention – specifically professional help, but also the compassion and concern of loved ones. Those who’ve attempted suicide in the past are automatically at greater risk of dying by suicide as they may attempt again in the future. Again, take any suicidal behaviours seriously.

MYTH #4: People who die by suicide are selfish.

FACT: People who die by suicide have often suffered in silence for a long time, and simply want to end the suffering. Their pain is deep and the feelings of helplessness or hopelessness are so overwhelming that they are incapable of seeing any way to resolve their feelings other than by taking their own lives. Many even feel that the world would be better off without them. They are not simply ‘thinking of themselves’. They are experiencing a serious suicidal ideation caused by severe emotional pain, mental illness, crises, or other painful life situations.  But often a helping hand or timely support from a loved one, a friend or colleague, can help them to see there are other options, no matter how hard it seems now. 

MYTH #5: Most suicides happen without warning.

FACT: There are quite often warning signs that precede suicide. Many who attempt suicide may demonstrate warning signs only around those closest to them. If these loved ones or colleagues don’t recognise what’s going on, the attempt or completed suicide can seem sudden. Therefore, it’s important to learn and understand the warning signs.

MYTH #6: Once a person has decided to end their life, there is nothing that will change their mind.

FACT: Often, feeling actively suicidal is temporary.  It can be a one-off impulse or it can be a feeling that builds up over time.  Suicidal thoughts may be temporary, even where someone has been feeling low, anxious or struggling to cope for a long period of time. This is why getting the right kind of support at the right time is so important.

Common risk factors or warning signs for suicide attempts

  • Acting out of character
  • Previous suicide attempt(s)
  • Family history of suicide, abuse, and/or mental disorders
  • Underlying psychiatric or mood disorders
  • Experience of traumatic life event
  • Giving away belongings or items of special meaning or significance
  • Obtaining a weapon or other means of self-harm
  • Engaging in risky or dangerous behaviour
  • Loss of interest in people, things, places or activities one once enjoyed
  • Talking about wanting to die or kill oneself
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious, agitated, or reckless
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or isolating
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings
  • Conflict about identity and/or conflict in personal relationships that may worsen feelings of shame or isolation

 

Crisis Support Services and Helplines

Please see below for support services or check out the Specialist Support Services section of our website: https://www.3ts.ie/need-help/

If the person is in immediate risk of suicide or self-harm, it is important that you don’t leave them on their own. CALL 999 or Call 112 in an emergency or visit your nearest A&E Department.

Pieta House: Suicide support service – free helpline & face to face counselling support.  For information & branches nationwide, see www.pieta.ie

  • Free Helpline (24hr): 1800 247 247 
  • Email: mary@pieta.ie (please allow up to 24hrs for a response)

 

Samaritans: Longstanding & trusted, Samaritans volunteers provide confidential support, befriending and listening to those in personal crisis, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

  • Helpline: Freephone 116 123 (callers from Rep of Ireland)
  • N Ire Helpline: 08457 90 90 90 (callers from N. Ireland)
  • Email: jo@samaritans.org (email response within 24 hours)
  • Web: www.samaritans.org

 

Aware: Providing online, telephone & face to face support and assistance to all affected by depression & bipolar disorder.

  • Freephone Support Helpline: 1800 80 48 48 (10am-10pm daily)
  • Email: supportmail@aware.ie
  • Web: aware.ie