The counter-intuitive truths about suicide

There are some commonly held beliefs about suicide that seem intuitive but are simply not true.

Suicide is a counter-intuitive act to our drive for life.
A counter-intuitive action is accompanied with counter-intuitive truths.

Here are some common beliefs and the truths about suicide.

FACT: Most people who are considering suicide will only be that way for short-term and situation-specific. Given proper assistance and support, they will probably recover and continue to lead meaningful and happy lives unhindered by suicidal concerns.

FACT: Most people who are contemplating suicide do not know who to speak to, rather than being opposed to talking about it. Talking about suicide provides the opportunity for communication. When people share what's on their mind, it helps them process their fears. When people are listened to, it helps them feel cared for. The first step in encouraging a suicidal person to live comes from them talking about those feelings without feeling judged. That first step can be a simple gentle inquiry about whether or not the person is intending to end their life.

FACT: Suicidal behaviour indicates deep unhappiness but not necessarily mental disorder. While depression is a contributory factor in most suicides, it need not be present for suicide to be attempted or completed . Many people living with mental disorders are not affected by suicidal behaviour, and not all people who take their own lives have a mental disorder.

FACT: The survivors of a suicide often say that the intention was hidden from them. It is more likely that the intention was just not recognized. There are many warning signs, whether verbal or behavioural. Evidence shows that people often tell peers about their thoughts and plans. Most suicidal adults visit a medical doctor during the three months prior to killing themselves. Adolescents are more likely to 'ask' for help through non-verbal gestures than to express their situation verbally to others.

Click here to learn more about warning signs.

FACT: Where the potential for harm, or actual harm, is disclosed then confidentiality cannot be maintained. For instance, if someone has a sealed note with the request for the note not to be opened, this is a very strong indicator that something is seriously strong. A life is more important than a promise.

FACT: All suicide attempts must be treated as though the person has the intent to die. Do not dismiss a suicide attempt as simply being an attention-gaining device. It is likely that the young person has tried to gain attention and, therefore, this attention is needed. This is a way that they express their distress. The attention that they get may well save their lives and to get them the help that they need.

FACT: Suicides can be prevented. Most people who want to die by suicide do so in crisis. Suicide is a permanent solution to what is usually a temporary problem. Immediate practical help such as staying with the person, encouraging them to talk and helping them build plans for the future, can avert the intention to attempt or complete suicide. Such immediate help is valuable at a time of crisis, but appropriate counselling will then be required.