The statistics are staggering, which is why suicide prevention & awareness are so important. Every year 800,000 people die by suicide. That’s one every 40 seconds. Such a high death toll, it is hard to fathom. Suicide risks increased 30% between 2000-2018 (though it did actually decrease in 2019 and 2020).
The thing is, it is SO preventable. And the main thing we need to do (as with so many things) is talk about it in an open, vulnerable way.
They launched the national hotline – 988 – in July. Awareness of mental health issues is higher than ever before. And still, most people are afraid to ask.
There are a lot of reasons for that. But here are some myths about suicide – and some facts:
Myth: If I ask them about suicide, I might put that thought in their head. What if I make it worse?
- Asking someone if they are OK out of genuine concern is never the wrong thing.
- Even if you tell them something negative, you will not put the idea in their head.
- If they were already there, they might be surprised about your concern – but that is because people generally are afraid to ask.
- (I admit, this is an opinion) We need to talk about this stuff! Ignoring it is what makes it so common – what might happen if we start talking about it?
Myth: You only have to worry about it if someone has an existing mental health condition.
- Less than half of those who attempt suicide have a diagnosed mental health condition or are being treated for mental health issues (46% do).
- There are several groups that are more vulnerable – and some of them might surprise you!
- The groups with the highest rates were non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native and non-Hispanic White populations.
- people who live in rural areas
- workers in certain industries and occupations like mining and construction.
- Young people who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual
Myth: When someone says they’re suicidal, they are just attention seeking.
- The first time I heard someone say this, I was surprised. I do not know why anyone would think that suicidal thoughts are attention seeking, but the same myth persists around self-harm.
- In over 20 years, I have never had a client express suicidal ideation (or self harm) for attention.
- People who admit to these feelings (usually after I have asked them directly) are suffering.
- (this is technically an opinion) We do not get to judge someone’s suffering.
Myth: They’re so young, they’ll get through it.
- Teenagers (especially 10-14) are a very high risk group for suicidal thoughts, attempts, and deaths.
- People who are young do not know how to handle all the changes coming at them – (here comes another opinion…) we need to help them develop appropriate skills to deal with stressors and mental health issues.
- Suicide is in the top ten causes of death for people age 5-64! It is the second leading cause of death for people aged 10-14 and 25-34.
Myth: They started antidepressants, so they will be fine, right?
- The weeks after someone starts taking antidepressants are actually some of the most difficult.
- Antidepressants do not change the thoughts in your head – so you might still feel suicidal.
- Antidepressants do resolve some of the symptoms of depression – like energy, attention, sleep, eating, and your level of interest in your regularly scheduled life.
- When someone first starts taking antidepressants (specifically SSRI’s) they essentially have all of the negative thinking AND they have more energy – this sometimes means they are more vulnerable in terms of following through on suicidal thoughts.
- This is especially a risk factor with people under the age of 25 – again, their brains are not fully developed and they also may not have the skills they need to deal with these thoughts and feelings.
Myth: If you think positively (or pray hard enough or try hard enough) those feelings will go away!
- You cannot think your way out of that feeling, or pray your way out of suicidal thoughts
- If the person is talking to you at all, they need your support!
- (this is just my request) Please do not judge someone for these feelings!
I hope this gives you some more information and makes you feel a little bit more comfortable talking about suicidal thoughts, feelings, and the impact that suicide may have had on your life.
If you want to connect with me, here is my email.