One of the biggest causes of death across the world is suicide, making it a public health concern of priority. It is also known that many attempts and deaths by suicide go unreported.
The complexity of the problem and religious, political, and personal beliefs, the thick cloud of stigma around it make it almost impossible for the struggling individuals to reach out for help, talk about what they feel, and seek safety.
It’s high time we clear the haze and a bunch of myths surrounding suicide.
Suicide is highly preventable, with the right support and information. So let’s debunk some myths and deepen our understanding.
Myth: All suicides are the result of mental health problems
Fact: A lot of factors can lead one to die by suicide, which may not be related to mental health problems.
Many people with mental health problems do not experience suicidal thoughts. In India, stress arising from important relationships (family, friendship, romantic), sexuality, discrimination, poor long-term health, and financial situations are in fact the leading reasons for suicide among people.
Myth: Taking medication for a mental health condition eliminates the risk of suicide.
Fact: Not necessarily. Medication may reduce physical or emotional symptoms of distress but it may not eradicate the source of distress.
As seen above, the source of someone’s problems may be external and complicated. Medication prescribed by a medical practitioner can help reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. However, even if the emotional agony seems to reduce, if the person does not receive enough long-term support, and addresses the root cause of the problem, they may actively contemplate suicide.
Myth: Talking about suicide with a friend will strain the friendship.
Fact: Talking about suicide and one’s emotional health with improve communication and strengthen friendships.
It can open up avenues to seek support for which one needs to have an honest and caring friendship. Often those in distress do not know whom to speak to or fear that they will be judged or that their problem will be undermined. Trying to understand and discuss suicide in a safe space and assuring confidentiality may encourage the distressed person to open up to you, and look for solutions that they were not able to see so far.
Myth: Talking about suicide openly will normalize the behavior and lead to more suicides.
Fact: Talking about suicide openly will normalize help-seeking behavior when one is faced with severe distress.
Discussing suicide does not plant the idea in someone’s mind; however if someone is considering it, it may give them hope and the choice to find support. Discussing the difficult topic without shying away from it can lead to developing a kinder and more empathetic dialogue when talking about suicide. It will also push us to build our skills and empathy to support survivors and families, shifting the onus to us to provide help proactively.
Myth: If someone's mood improves suddenly, they're no longer at risk of suicide.
Fact: The risk of suicide can only be reduced with appropriate and long-term support for the individual. Sudden mood improvement could be temporary and is not enough to eliminate the risk.
Many people mask their true feelings. One’s mood can suddenly improve due to various factors if they have found temporary solutions, find a medication that can help cope with physical or mental health conditions, or even if they have planned their suicide and are rejoicing at the thought of ending their emotional pain.
One’s risk of suicide varies over time, as situations or circumstances change. This is why regularly sharing information and checking for the level of risk in individuals who are at risk, is important.
Myth: Suicidal thoughts only last for a short period of time.
Fact: There is no fixed period. Suicidal thoughts may persist for years or reduce in a few weeks.
Suicidal thoughts are not permanent - they may be highly recurring thoughts, occur with intensity but also reduce over time. Most people experiencing suicidal ideation may proceed to live long, happy lives if they are provided the proper professional support and care that they need.
Myth: People who are religious or spiritual can't experience suicidal thoughts.
Fact: Anyone can be vulnerable to distress and experience suicidal thoughts.
Religion or spirituality can be both an anchor or a risk factor for distress to people. A person may find community and support, reliance on themselves, and a higher power through religious involvement. However, deep emotional pain is not resolved through religious or spiritual means. Further, religious beliefs themselves can sometimes be the source of distress - like the violence faced by marginalized communities.
What can you do?
The need of the hour is for collective action on suicide prevention. We must continuously inform ourselves about mental health, socioeconomic contexts, and their impact on suicidal thoughts.
For those in a dark place emotionally, your willingness to understand, instill hope, and be present for them is everything they need to give life another chance.
Every little effort to
- make them feel understood
- Show them they’re valuable
- They aren’t alone in feeling this way,
- accept and love them as they are
- Ensure they get professional help
- Show them they can lead a fulfilling life
These efforts are huge for someone who feels all alone, rejected by everyone, and doesn’t know how to seek help.
Don’t let the myths prevent you from helping those in pain.
With the right tools, information, and training to spot suicidal ideation signs, you can provide emotional first-aid, convince them that they make the world a better place just by living in it, and refer them to a qualified therapist for long-term emotional healing and growth.
Anyone can become a suicide prevention gatekeeper. It’s the thought of helping another that counts.
Manah Wellness, in partnership with the QPR Institute, offers the best-in-kind suicide prevention gatekeeping training.
Contact us to save a spot right now.