Suicide is one of the most heartbreaking, confusing and misunderstood issues in contemporary culture. It’s no surprise, then, that many people’s understanding of suicide is shaped by the very taboo nature of the act. But it’s these very misconceptions that really hurt the victims — and potential victims — of suicide. Armed with the tools to understand suicide, you can help prevent it. Read on for some of the most common misconceptions about suicide.
1. If You Prevent a Suicide, the Person Will Just Find Another Way.
Many, if not most, suicide attempts are impulsive decisions. One study found that nearly 1/4 of people who survived a suicide attempt had decided to commit suicide less than 5 minutes before they attempted.
To dig a little deeper into this, we have to look no further than the world’s top suicide destination — the Golden Gate Bridge. The debate over whether or not to construct a suicide barrier on the bridge has gone on for decades. One of the most pervasive claims on the anti-barrier side has been that people will just find a different way to commit suicide. But, in a landmark 1978 studythat looked at the mortality rates of 515 people who had been prevented from jumping, this was found to be mostly untrue. Over the years, just about 5% of these people had successfully committed suicide after the earlier attempt.
So what does this mean? Well, it supports the idea that prevention is effective more often than not, and it is disingenuous to think otherwise.
2. Teens are at Greatest Risk.
The highest suicide rate of any age, gender, and race is among elderly white men over the age of 85. Seniors and middle-aged adults have the highest suicide rates — people under the age of 25 actually have the lowest. There are many possible reasons for this: older people have less resilient bodies, and are thus less likely to survive a suicide attempt. Older people are more likely to be sick, have experienced major losses, and more likely to feel the stigma around mental illness. While an elder person may choose to end their life for a variety of reasons, depression is one risk factor that should be monitored.
You can ready more about suicide risks among elderly people in this enlightening Washington Post article.
3. You Shouldn’t Ask Others if They’re Thinking About It.
One of the best things you can do as the loved one of others who you suspect to be suicidal is to ask them if they’re thinking about harming themselves. It’s not going to put the idea in their heads, and doing so may actually help save lives. By bringing it up, you can help struggling loved ones plan how to treat possible conditions and suicidal ideation.
4. Suicide Peaks During the Holiday Season.
It certainly makes sense that, at a time where many of us are celebrating and the weather is gloomy, suicidal people feel most alone, desperate and depressed. However, there is no correlation between suicide rates and the holiday season. In fact, suicide rates peak in late spring and early summer (Clauss-Ehlers, Caroline. (2010). Encyclopedia of Cross-Cultural School Psychology).
5. Suicide is selfish.
It’s easy to think this, but the reality is much, much more complicated. Over 90% of people who commit suicide have some form of mental illness. Mental illness is an illness like any other — and stigmatizing victims of suicide often makes it harder for suicidal people seek help.
Suicidal people often rationalize their thoughts by assuming that the world will be better off without them in it. They don’t see it as selfish, they see it as self-less. Suicide is, of course, not the answer to their problem, which is why it is so important to help those who are in turmoil.
6. Gun Access Has Nothing to Do With Suicide.
Gun shots are by far the most common, and most lethal, suicide method in the United States. The states with the highest suicide rates overall also have some of the highest access to guns and biggest gun cultures. Across the United States, the regional differences in suicide rates can be generally explained by gun access and ownership. Wyoming has the highest suicide rate, followed by Alaska, Montana and New Mexico — all states that have some of the least-restrictive gun laws in the nation, and the highest rates of overall gun deaths in the nation. On the other end of the spectrum, the regions with the lowest suicide rates are the District of Columbia, New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts, which all have much more restrictive gun control laws.
7. Suicidal People Don’t Want Help.
Many people who experience suicidal ideation want help, and don’t want to die. It’s alarmingly common for people who are suicidal to be afraid to ask for help. Studies suggest that over half of people who commit suicide either sought or had medical treatment in the months prior to their act. The takeaway, then, is that asking a person you suspect to be suicidal is one of the best things you can do for them.
8. Copycat Suicides Are a Myth.
Suicide clusters are a very real, and very alarming, phenomena. They can happen in high schools and colleges, in the wake of a suicide that was a means of political protest or even after a celebrity’s suicide. Learning of the suicide of someone who a person feels close or similar to can serve as more evidence for a suicidal person to commit the act.
One of the ways authorities have attempted to mitigate this is by putting restrictions, or suggestions, on the press. The method in which a person took their own life isn’t always publicized, and, at the Golden Gate Bridge and other suicide destinations, local media have begun to stop reporting deaths. …….’