Suicide has occurred in almost every culture and every time period. Depending on the time and culture, suicidal behavior has been accepted or condemned, and many myths about suicide have evolved. Appropriate and effective intervention requires recognizing these myths and knowing the facts.
People often commit suicide without warning – “out of the blue.”
FACT: Most people who take their lives have communicated intent beforehand, either blatantly or subtly.
Only severely depressed people commit suicide; improvement in emotional state means lessened risk of suicide
FACT: Suicide often occurs at the end of a deep depression when a person’s spirits and energy level rise. Suicide requires a certain amount of energy that a severely depressed person may lack.
Only crazy people commit suicide
FACT: Although most suicidal people are very unhappy, most suicidal acts are committed by people that aren’t characterized as psychotic. Thus, they are generally rational and in tough with reality. Seventy-five percent of those who commit suicide are, however, clinically depressed.
If a person committed suicide, his or her situation was probably so bad that death was the best solution
FACT: The life circumstances of suicidal individuals, while often bad, are survived by most people in similar circumstances. The perception of a difficult or challenging life circumstance is often more severe than the actual event.
People who talk about or threaten suicide don’t do it
FACT: A large percentage of people who threaten suicide carry out their threats. Take all threats seriously.
People who really want to die will find a way; it won’t help to try and stop them
FACT: Most suicidal people are highly ambivalent (unsure) about suicide. They are torn between a desire to live and a desire to die.
The tendency toward suicide is inherited and passed from generation to generation
FACT: Since suicides often do run in families, the assumption is made that suicide is inherited. However, suicide often occurs in individuals with no family history of suicide.
One should not try to discuss suicide with depressed people. It might give them the idea or upset them enough to “push them over the edge.” The best thing to do is ignore it.
FACT: Suicidal people are commonly greatly relieved to be able to talk about it.
The great majority of suicides are among people from lower socioeconomic classes.
FACT: More middle-class and affluent people commit suicide. However, suicide still crosses all racial/ethnic groups and classes.