5 Common Myths About Suicide That You Should Know

Asma Rehman, LPC
Latest posts by Asma Rehman, LPC (see all)

There’s a lot of misinformation out in the world about suicide.

A stock photo showing a hand reaching out of a large body of water, against a gray cloudy sky. One thing we’ve come to learn at Grief Recovery Center is suicide is something that many people don’t like to think or talk about, but avoiding the topic can actually lead to harm. Suicide is incredibly stigmatized, even as our cultural understanding of mental health grows.

Whether we want to think about it or not, suicide is happening. According to the CDC, “Suicide was responsible for 48,183 deaths in 2021, which is about one death every 11 minutes. The number of people who think about or attempt suicide is even higher. In 2021, an estimated 12.3 million American adults seriously thought about suicide, 3.5 million planned a suicide attempt, and 1.7 million attempted suicide.” Suicide is a public health issue.

Stigma contributes to misunderstandings and fear about suicide. It’s still seen as somewhat shameful to admit that you have thoughts of suicide, or even to have a loved one die by suicide. While there is absolutely nothing shameful about suicide, the lack of information that most people have about suicide leads to people feeling that they can’t talk about what they’re going through.

When we debunk common myths about suicide, we can increase compassion for people who are struggling with suicidal ideation and make it easier for people to ask for help. We also make it easier for survivors of suicide loss to seek support in their grief.

There are a lot of myths out there about suicide, but here are 5 of the most common ones our Houston counselors hear about:

People who die by suicide are selfish

Many people have an idea of suicide as a selfish act but that coudln’t be further from the truth. When you aren’t in the midst of suicidal ideation, it can be hard to understand why someone would think that suicide is their only option. They see suicide as a way to end their pain and struggle. The distress they feel can lead them to overlook other options or to feel that they have no way out.

Stigma also contributes to people feeling like they have nowhere to turn when they feel suicidal. Some people are afraid of what others will think, the effect that it will have on their jobs and finances, and even their ability to access care. Reducing the stigma around suicide can help people realize that they have more options than they think.

Asking about suicidal ideation can plant the ideaA stock photo of a blonde white woman standing and embracing a seated brunette white woman.

Thoughts of suicide are known as suicidal ideation, or SI. Experiencing SI doesn’t always mean that someone is in danger of harming themselves, though. There are a range of thoughts that people may have regarding suicide, from passive or intrusive thoughts of wanting to die, up through having an active plan and intent to die.

There’s an idea out there that talking about suicide can give someone the idea to harm themselves or take their life. This is actually the complete opposite of the truth: talking about suicide can help increase the likelihood of someone who is considering suicide seeking treatment. When people who are dealing with suicidal ideation are met with compassion and understanding, it can help them realize that there are more options available to them than ending their life.

Suicide happens without warning

There are often warning signs that someone is considering suicide. It’s important to understand what the warning signs and risk factors for suicide are so that you can intervene if you’re concerned about someone. Some warning signs and risk factors for suicide are:

  • Talking about suicide
  • Feeling hopeless or like a burden to others
  • Family history of suicide
  • Access to lethal means, like firearms
  • Withdrawal from loved ones
  • Extreme changes in mood
  • Engaging in risky behaviors, like driving too fast or using substances
  • Changes in sleeping or eating patterns
  • Acting anxious or agitated
  • Prolonged stress or trauma
  • Recent tragedy or loss
  • Tying up loose ends, saying goodbye, giving away personal items

When people talk about harming themselves, they’re not just looking for attention – it’s often a desperate cry for help. Any warning signs that you notice should be taken seriously. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

If someone is suicidal they’ll always be suicidal

A stock photo of a distressed looking older white man with his head in his hands. Active suicidal ideation doesn’t last forever, and treatment is both available and effective. It’s important to remember that suicide is preventable, even if it’s not always easy to predict. Just because someone is suicidal at one point in their life doesn’t mean that they will always feel that way. Suicide is not inevitable.

Treatment to prevent suicide can include creating safety plans for moments of crisis, building social connections, learning new coping skills, reducing access to lethal means, and improving financial and social security, among others.

Only people with mental health conditions die by suicide

There is no single cause of suicide, and you don’t need a mental health condition to die by suicide. While many people who die by suicide do deal with mental health conditions like depression, others may consider suicide for other reasons. Sometimes, people consider suicide as a result of a stressful situation, like losing a job or the death of a loved one.

No one wants to think about suicide, but ignoring it and pretending it doesn’t happen isn’t helpful to anyone. The more you know, the better equipped you are to make a difference for anyone struggling. Developing a nonjudgmental view of suicide can also help you feel more able to ask for help if you’re ever dealing with suicidal ideation yourself.

If you or someone close to you is considering harming themselves, please reach out for help. Call 988 to reach the 24/7 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline for support. Things won’t always feel this way, and help is available. If you’d like to speak to a mental health professional, we have appointments available. Get in touch with our counseling office today, or if you are outside of the Houston area, we also offer online counseling in Texas.


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