Myths and Facts About Suicide

Reviewed May 27, 2017

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Summary

  • The biggest cause of suicide is untreated depression or substance abuse.
  • Take all talk of suicide seriously.
  • You can only solve life’s problems alive.

Psychiatrist Gabriela Cora, MD, says she is sorry so many people are afraid to talk about suicide. When she talks to teenagers at suicide prevention programs, she asks if they would help a person sitting next to them who was choking. They all say yes. And, what about someone who might be having a heart attack? Again, they wouldn’t hesitate to help.

“It’s important to dispel the myths associated with suicide,” says Cora. “One is that [the risk of dying by] suicide is somehow different from choking or a heart attack or walking under a dangerous wire, but it is not.” The consequences of all three are the same. So, when someone needs help to stay alive, you give that help or find someone who can.

Here are a few myths and facts about suicide and attempted suicide:

Myth 1: Most people who talk about completing suicide won’t do it. They really want someone to stop them.
 
Fact: Almost all people who take their own life talk or write about it first. It’s important to take such talk seriously. Yes, they want attention, but it is in the form of help. Help them get it.

Myth 2: It is dangerous to even mention the word suicide around someone who has attempted it. It might stir up bad memories.

Fact: No, you won’t stir up a person’s desire to kill himself by talking about it. In fact, you may even start a good conversation that will help your relationship. Talk is good. You might even learn something about your friend that will help you understand him better.  

Myth 3: Only young people kill themselves. 

Fact: Young people, ages 15-24, are at high risk. But, the risk for elderly people is even higher. One reason is the medication many people over age 65 take for various health conditions that come with aging. Some prescription and over-the-counter drugs cause symptoms of depression, which can start a person thinking about suicide. Depression is not a natural part of aging. It is diagnosable and treatable at any age. There is no reason for anyone to live with untreated depression.

Myth 4: Once people decide to kill themselves, there is nothing anyone can do to stop them.

Fact: Most people who attempt to take their own life do not want to die, just get rid of their emotional pain. Author Sue Blauner attempted suicide three times before she decided she really wanted to live. Learning how to live took time.
 
“When I was struggling, sometimes if I could talk to someone, it helped,” Blauner says. “When I thought about suicide, it wasn’t because I wanted to be dead; I just wanted to get rid of the pain.”

Myth 5: People die by suicide to hurt those around them. 

Fact: While it is true that the aftereffects of a death by suicide in a family or workplace can be long-lasting and horrific, people complete suicide because they are depressed; because they make an impulsive decision while under the influence of drugs or alcohol; or are overwhelmed by anger, fear, and hopelessness.

Blauner says the suicidal person is so wrapped up in his misery, he does not realize he is affecting other people.

Many times, a chemical imbalance leads someone to depression. This problem is easily treated. When a person talks about suicide, she is putting out a signal of an underlying emotional health problem that is as clear as a cough or fever signaling a respiratory infection. If you hear someone express a desire to die by suicide, you should always take that talk seriously.

Myth 6: Most people never even think of suicide.

Fact: Every person alive faces ups and downs, successes, and tragedies. That’s how life works. When bad things happen, it’s not unusual for someone to think about death, but very few consider it as a good option. If we have strong support systems, we can usually find ways out of our misery.

People who complete suicide are in so much pain, they have lost the hope their pain will ever go away. And, most believe no one will help them.  

What are the major risk factors?

  • Depression and/or substance use
  • History of attempted suicide
  • Family history of substance use or mental health problems
  • Family history of suicide
  • Domestic violence
  • Firearms in the home
  • Incarceration
  • Exposure to suicidal behavior of others
  • Lack of social support

Substance use raises the risk of suicide in several ways. First of all, alcohol is a depressant and so are many drugs people use to get high. Substance use can push a person into poor mental health by letting him slip into depression slowly. He may feel good while high, but crashes after the drug wears off. Second, because he uses drugs or drinks, he may lose the support of those he needs and loves. Without the support of a family or friends, he may not be able to find his way through depression to get the help he needs. Third, mind-altering substances lower a person’s inhibitions while they increase impulsiveness. He may do something under the influence that he would never do, if sober.

What other major risk factors are there for attempted suicide?

  • Being male or elderly put you at highest risk
  • Recent divorce or loss of family member
  • Physical or sexual abuse

What are the numbers?

  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.
  • About 44,000 people die by suicide every year.
  • Every year in the U.S., there are substantially more suicide attempts than actual completed suicides.  
  • Substance use may be involved in at least half of all suicides and suicide attempts. Forty percent of deaths by suicide are among men who are depressed or have an alcohol problem and are over the age of 45.
  • The risk of death by suicide is highest during the first year after an attempt.

When we understand the facts of suicide, we are better able to prevent it.

If you or your loved one are in a crisis and need help immediately, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433) any time, any day. Or go to www.suicide.org online. These 24-hour-a-day suicide prevention lifelines are free services, available to anyone. All calls are confidential.

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Kevin Caruso, Founder, Executive Director, and Editor-in-Chief of the suicide prevention website, Suicide.org; Gabriela Cora, MD, MBA, psychiatrist, author, wellness coach, Miami, FL; LeslieBeth Wish, EdD, MSS, psychologist, licensed clinical social worker, and co-director of The Counseling Network of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, Sarasota, FL, which offers free counseling for grief, post-traumatic stress, and family and children needs for military families and veterans; Synopsis of Psychiatry by Benjamin J. Sadock, Virginia A. Sadock and Pedro Ruiz, MD, LWW, 11th edition, 2014.
Reviewed by Jenni Myers, LCSW, Director, Corporate Strategy, and Dale Seamans, Executive Editor, Thought Leadership, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • The biggest cause of suicide is untreated depression or substance abuse.
  • Take all talk of suicide seriously.
  • You can only solve life’s problems alive.

Psychiatrist Gabriela Cora, MD, says she is sorry so many people are afraid to talk about suicide. When she talks to teenagers at suicide prevention programs, she asks if they would help a person sitting next to them who was choking. They all say yes. And, what about someone who might be having a heart attack? Again, they wouldn’t hesitate to help.

“It’s important to dispel the myths associated with suicide,” says Cora. “One is that [the risk of dying by] suicide is somehow different from choking or a heart attack or walking under a dangerous wire, but it is not.” The consequences of all three are the same. So, when someone needs help to stay alive, you give that help or find someone who can.

Here are a few myths and facts about suicide and attempted suicide:

Myth 1: Most people who talk about completing suicide won’t do it. They really want someone to stop them.
 
Fact: Almost all people who take their own life talk or write about it first. It’s important to take such talk seriously. Yes, they want attention, but it is in the form of help. Help them get it.

Myth 2: It is dangerous to even mention the word suicide around someone who has attempted it. It might stir up bad memories.

Fact: No, you won’t stir up a person’s desire to kill himself by talking about it. In fact, you may even start a good conversation that will help your relationship. Talk is good. You might even learn something about your friend that will help you understand him better.  

Myth 3: Only young people kill themselves. 

Fact: Young people, ages 15-24, are at high risk. But, the risk for elderly people is even higher. One reason is the medication many people over age 65 take for various health conditions that come with aging. Some prescription and over-the-counter drugs cause symptoms of depression, which can start a person thinking about suicide. Depression is not a natural part of aging. It is diagnosable and treatable at any age. There is no reason for anyone to live with untreated depression.

Myth 4: Once people decide to kill themselves, there is nothing anyone can do to stop them.

Fact: Most people who attempt to take their own life do not want to die, just get rid of their emotional pain. Author Sue Blauner attempted suicide three times before she decided she really wanted to live. Learning how to live took time.
 
“When I was struggling, sometimes if I could talk to someone, it helped,” Blauner says. “When I thought about suicide, it wasn’t because I wanted to be dead; I just wanted to get rid of the pain.”

Myth 5: People die by suicide to hurt those around them. 

Fact: While it is true that the aftereffects of a death by suicide in a family or workplace can be long-lasting and horrific, people complete suicide because they are depressed; because they make an impulsive decision while under the influence of drugs or alcohol; or are overwhelmed by anger, fear, and hopelessness.

Blauner says the suicidal person is so wrapped up in his misery, he does not realize he is affecting other people.

Many times, a chemical imbalance leads someone to depression. This problem is easily treated. When a person talks about suicide, she is putting out a signal of an underlying emotional health problem that is as clear as a cough or fever signaling a respiratory infection. If you hear someone express a desire to die by suicide, you should always take that talk seriously.

Myth 6: Most people never even think of suicide.

Fact: Every person alive faces ups and downs, successes, and tragedies. That’s how life works. When bad things happen, it’s not unusual for someone to think about death, but very few consider it as a good option. If we have strong support systems, we can usually find ways out of our misery.

People who complete suicide are in so much pain, they have lost the hope their pain will ever go away. And, most believe no one will help them.  

What are the major risk factors?

  • Depression and/or substance use
  • History of attempted suicide
  • Family history of substance use or mental health problems
  • Family history of suicide
  • Domestic violence
  • Firearms in the home
  • Incarceration
  • Exposure to suicidal behavior of others
  • Lack of social support

Substance use raises the risk of suicide in several ways. First of all, alcohol is a depressant and so are many drugs people use to get high. Substance use can push a person into poor mental health by letting him slip into depression slowly. He may feel good while high, but crashes after the drug wears off. Second, because he uses drugs or drinks, he may lose the support of those he needs and loves. Without the support of a family or friends, he may not be able to find his way through depression to get the help he needs. Third, mind-altering substances lower a person’s inhibitions while they increase impulsiveness. He may do something under the influence that he would never do, if sober.

What other major risk factors are there for attempted suicide?

  • Being male or elderly put you at highest risk
  • Recent divorce or loss of family member
  • Physical or sexual abuse

What are the numbers?

  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.
  • About 44,000 people die by suicide every year.
  • Every year in the U.S., there are substantially more suicide attempts than actual completed suicides.  
  • Substance use may be involved in at least half of all suicides and suicide attempts. Forty percent of deaths by suicide are among men who are depressed or have an alcohol problem and are over the age of 45.
  • The risk of death by suicide is highest during the first year after an attempt.

When we understand the facts of suicide, we are better able to prevent it.

If you or your loved one are in a crisis and need help immediately, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433) any time, any day. Or go to www.suicide.org online. These 24-hour-a-day suicide prevention lifelines are free services, available to anyone. All calls are confidential.

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Kevin Caruso, Founder, Executive Director, and Editor-in-Chief of the suicide prevention website, Suicide.org; Gabriela Cora, MD, MBA, psychiatrist, author, wellness coach, Miami, FL; LeslieBeth Wish, EdD, MSS, psychologist, licensed clinical social worker, and co-director of The Counseling Network of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, Sarasota, FL, which offers free counseling for grief, post-traumatic stress, and family and children needs for military families and veterans; Synopsis of Psychiatry by Benjamin J. Sadock, Virginia A. Sadock and Pedro Ruiz, MD, LWW, 11th edition, 2014.
Reviewed by Jenni Myers, LCSW, Director, Corporate Strategy, and Dale Seamans, Executive Editor, Thought Leadership, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • The biggest cause of suicide is untreated depression or substance abuse.
  • Take all talk of suicide seriously.
  • You can only solve life’s problems alive.

Psychiatrist Gabriela Cora, MD, says she is sorry so many people are afraid to talk about suicide. When she talks to teenagers at suicide prevention programs, she asks if they would help a person sitting next to them who was choking. They all say yes. And, what about someone who might be having a heart attack? Again, they wouldn’t hesitate to help.

“It’s important to dispel the myths associated with suicide,” says Cora. “One is that [the risk of dying by] suicide is somehow different from choking or a heart attack or walking under a dangerous wire, but it is not.” The consequences of all three are the same. So, when someone needs help to stay alive, you give that help or find someone who can.

Here are a few myths and facts about suicide and attempted suicide:

Myth 1: Most people who talk about completing suicide won’t do it. They really want someone to stop them.
 
Fact: Almost all people who take their own life talk or write about it first. It’s important to take such talk seriously. Yes, they want attention, but it is in the form of help. Help them get it.

Myth 2: It is dangerous to even mention the word suicide around someone who has attempted it. It might stir up bad memories.

Fact: No, you won’t stir up a person’s desire to kill himself by talking about it. In fact, you may even start a good conversation that will help your relationship. Talk is good. You might even learn something about your friend that will help you understand him better.  

Myth 3: Only young people kill themselves. 

Fact: Young people, ages 15-24, are at high risk. But, the risk for elderly people is even higher. One reason is the medication many people over age 65 take for various health conditions that come with aging. Some prescription and over-the-counter drugs cause symptoms of depression, which can start a person thinking about suicide. Depression is not a natural part of aging. It is diagnosable and treatable at any age. There is no reason for anyone to live with untreated depression.

Myth 4: Once people decide to kill themselves, there is nothing anyone can do to stop them.

Fact: Most people who attempt to take their own life do not want to die, just get rid of their emotional pain. Author Sue Blauner attempted suicide three times before she decided she really wanted to live. Learning how to live took time.
 
“When I was struggling, sometimes if I could talk to someone, it helped,” Blauner says. “When I thought about suicide, it wasn’t because I wanted to be dead; I just wanted to get rid of the pain.”

Myth 5: People die by suicide to hurt those around them. 

Fact: While it is true that the aftereffects of a death by suicide in a family or workplace can be long-lasting and horrific, people complete suicide because they are depressed; because they make an impulsive decision while under the influence of drugs or alcohol; or are overwhelmed by anger, fear, and hopelessness.

Blauner says the suicidal person is so wrapped up in his misery, he does not realize he is affecting other people.

Many times, a chemical imbalance leads someone to depression. This problem is easily treated. When a person talks about suicide, she is putting out a signal of an underlying emotional health problem that is as clear as a cough or fever signaling a respiratory infection. If you hear someone express a desire to die by suicide, you should always take that talk seriously.

Myth 6: Most people never even think of suicide.

Fact: Every person alive faces ups and downs, successes, and tragedies. That’s how life works. When bad things happen, it’s not unusual for someone to think about death, but very few consider it as a good option. If we have strong support systems, we can usually find ways out of our misery.

People who complete suicide are in so much pain, they have lost the hope their pain will ever go away. And, most believe no one will help them.  

What are the major risk factors?

  • Depression and/or substance use
  • History of attempted suicide
  • Family history of substance use or mental health problems
  • Family history of suicide
  • Domestic violence
  • Firearms in the home
  • Incarceration
  • Exposure to suicidal behavior of others
  • Lack of social support

Substance use raises the risk of suicide in several ways. First of all, alcohol is a depressant and so are many drugs people use to get high. Substance use can push a person into poor mental health by letting him slip into depression slowly. He may feel good while high, but crashes after the drug wears off. Second, because he uses drugs or drinks, he may lose the support of those he needs and loves. Without the support of a family or friends, he may not be able to find his way through depression to get the help he needs. Third, mind-altering substances lower a person’s inhibitions while they increase impulsiveness. He may do something under the influence that he would never do, if sober.

What other major risk factors are there for attempted suicide?

  • Being male or elderly put you at highest risk
  • Recent divorce or loss of family member
  • Physical or sexual abuse

What are the numbers?

  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.
  • About 44,000 people die by suicide every year.
  • Every year in the U.S., there are substantially more suicide attempts than actual completed suicides.  
  • Substance use may be involved in at least half of all suicides and suicide attempts. Forty percent of deaths by suicide are among men who are depressed or have an alcohol problem and are over the age of 45.
  • The risk of death by suicide is highest during the first year after an attempt.

When we understand the facts of suicide, we are better able to prevent it.

If you or your loved one are in a crisis and need help immediately, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433) any time, any day. Or go to www.suicide.org online. These 24-hour-a-day suicide prevention lifelines are free services, available to anyone. All calls are confidential.

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Kevin Caruso, Founder, Executive Director, and Editor-in-Chief of the suicide prevention website, Suicide.org; Gabriela Cora, MD, MBA, psychiatrist, author, wellness coach, Miami, FL; LeslieBeth Wish, EdD, MSS, psychologist, licensed clinical social worker, and co-director of The Counseling Network of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, Sarasota, FL, which offers free counseling for grief, post-traumatic stress, and family and children needs for military families and veterans; Synopsis of Psychiatry by Benjamin J. Sadock, Virginia A. Sadock and Pedro Ruiz, MD, LWW, 11th edition, 2014.
Reviewed by Jenni Myers, LCSW, Director, Corporate Strategy, and Dale Seamans, Executive Editor, Thought Leadership, Beacon Health Options

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