Facts and Myths About Suicide

MYTH: Only trained professionals are capable of working with suicidal people.

FACT: There may be times when a friend, peer, family member, coworker, etc., may need to be an interventionist. The interventionist keeps the suicidal person alive along enough to link him/her with a counselor or therapist.

MYTH: People do not give out warning signs before committing suicide.

FACT: The overwhelming majority of suicidal people give out warning signs such as talking about it, giving away prized possessions, showing signs of depression, changing eating habits, and isolating themselves.

MYTH: You can always tell a suicidal person because s/he is depressed.

FACT: A suicidal person will often have several symptoms associated with the syndrome of depression. This is not always the case, however; some people may mask these feelings, but give other warnings. It should also be remembered that not everyone who has feelings of depression is necessarily suicidal.

MYTH: Suicidal people are fully intent on dying.

FACT: Most suicidal people are undecided about living or dying and gambles with death leaving it to others to save him/her. Almost no one commits suicide without letting others know how s/he feels.

MYTH: Once suicidal. a person is suicidal forever.

FACT: Individuals who wish to kill themselves are suicidal only for a limited period of time.

MYTH: Improvements following a suicidal crisis means that the suicidal risk is over.

FACT: Most suicides occur within three months following the beginning of improvement, when the individual has the energy to put morbid thoughts and feelings into effect.

MYTH: All suicidal individuals are mentally ill, and suicide is always and act of a psychotic person.

FACT: Studies of hundreds of genuine suicide notes indicate that although the suicidal person is extremely unhappy, s/he is not necessarily mentally ill.

MYTH: Suicide strikes more often among rich; or, just the opposite, it occurs almost exclusively among poor.

FACT: Suicide is neither a rich or poor person's disease. Suicide is very democratic and is represented proportionately among all levels of society.

MYTH: Suicide generally happens without warning.

FACT: Suicide is not a spontaneous activity. Is usually the result of a long-term, gradual wearing-down process called "suicidal erosion." There is on single cause of a suicide - only causes.

MYTH: People who talk about suicide aren't really serious.

FACT: Nothing could be further from the truth. Statements like:
I've decided to kill myself," "I've had it; I'm through," "I wish I were dead," "I'm calling it quits, living is useless," are very serious verbal warnings.

MYTH: Ignore people who talk about suicide; they are not serious or it is just a sick play for attention.

FACT: Psychologically speaking, people who talk about suicide are seriously at risk and should receive help.

MYTH: Alcohol and suicide are hot related.

FACT: 70% of all ten suicide victims had alcohol in their systems. Alcohol is a depressant. Adding alcohol to the system of an already depressed individual will in many cases aid the choice to suicide.

MYTH: 911 is an emergency number for things other than suicide.

FACT: Calling 911 to say, "I have a suicide in progress at this location .....," is the quickest way to get immediate help.

MYTH: Young adults seldom attempt suicide.

FACT: Suicide is the second-leading killer of people between ages 15-25.

MYTH: Suicide is a good way of getting revenge.

FACT: Although a person may sometimes feel that s/he will get even, killing oneself only brings a final ending to the gift of life. Friends and family must live on, often with grief, but more frequently feelings of anger.

MYTH: The overwhelming majority of suicidal people want to die.

FACT: The suicidal person needs a strong authoritarian figure. Do not ask him/her what s/he would like to do; tell him/her what s/he must do.


Adapted From

Miller Ph.D., M. (1995) Training Workshop. The Information Center, San Diego, CA.

Shneidman, ES. & Farborrow, N. L. Some Facts About Suicide. Washington, D.C., PHS Publication #862, U.S. Government Printing Office.

U.S. News and World Reports November 12, 1984


Orientation Articles (1991), from S.T.A.R. (Stand Together Against Rape) Anchorage, AK.


Annette Nay, Ph.D.

Annette Nay Homepage

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