Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. Its aim is to educate people about suicide, along with how to show compassion and care for those in distress.
The day is also intended to question the stigma associated with the issue.
As with numerous aspects of mental health, despite greater awareness there are still many misconceptions that perpetuate.
Here, we look at some of the myths surrounding suicide and the facts that dispel them.
Myth: Once a person is seriously considering suicide, there is nothing you can do.
Fact: Most suicidal crises are time-limited and based on unclear thinking. People attempting suicide want to escape their problems. Instead, they need to confront their problems directly and find solutions. Other people can support them through a crisis period until they are able to think more clearly.
Myth: If you ask a person about their suicidal intentions, you will encourage the person to kill themselves.
Fact: The opposite is true. Asking someone directly will often lower their anxiety and act as a deterrent. Your openness and concern will allow the person experiencing pain to talk about their problems and feel less lonely and isolated.
Myth: A person who attempts suicide will always be suicidal.
Fact: Most people at risk feel suicidal for a brief period of their lives. With the right support and proper assistance they will probably never be suicidal again.
Myth: People who talk about suicide don’t complete suicide.
Fact: Eight out of ten people who take their own lives give definite warning signs of their suicidal intentions. People who make suicidal attempts and threats must be taken seriously.
Myth: Suicidal people are fully intent on dying.
Fact: Most suicidal people are undecided until the last minute. They may ‘gamble with death’, leaving it up to others to save them. Few people attempt to take their own life without first letting others know how they are feeling. If recognised, these distress signals can be used to save lives.
How to help someone at risk of suicide
- Ensure your own safety. Don’t get involved physically if the person is distressed and threatening. Call for assistance and observe from a safe position until help arrives.
- Ensure the person is not left alone. Stay with them if the risk of suicide is high, or arrange for someone else to be with them through the immediate crisis.
- Seek immediate help. Call 999, or phone their GP and ask for an emergency home visit, or take the person to a hospital accident and emergency department, or call Samaritans on 116 123.
- If the person is consuming alcohol or drugs, discourage them from taking more.
- Try to ensure the person does not have ready access to some means to take their own life.
- Encourage the person to talk. Listen without judgement, be polite and respectful, don’t deny the person’s feelings, don’t try to give advice, and give reassurance that help is available and that there are other options.
Learning the soft skills for discussing mental health can make the difference. Find out more on our Mental Health First Aid page.