Myths about Suicide
The following are common statements made about suicide. Test your knowledge and stay informed to help prevent suicide!
- People who talk about suicide won’t really do it.
- False. Most people who commit suicide has given some clue or warning. Do not ignore suicide threats. Statements like “You’ll be sorry when I’m dead,” or “I can’t see any way out” – no matter how casually or jokingly said – may indicate serious suicidal feelings.
- “Anyone who tries to kill themselves must be crazy.”
- False. Calling people “crazy” just perpetuates stigma. Most suicidal people are not in a state of psychosis. They often are upset, grief-stricken, depressed, or despairing. Extreme distress and emotional pain are not necessarily signs of mental illness either.
- “If a person is determined to kill themselves, nothing is going to stop them.”
- False. Even the most severely depressed person has mixed feelings about death, wavering until the very last moment between wanting to live and wanting to die. Most suicidal people do not want death; they want the pain to stop. The impulse to end it all, however overpowering, does not last forever.
- “People who commit suicide are people who were unwilling to seek help.”
- False. Studies of suicide victims have shown that more than half had sought medical help within six months before their deaths.
- “Talking about suicide may give someone the idea.”
- False. You don’t give a suicidal person morbid ideas by talking about suicide. The opposite is true. Bringing up the subject of suicide and discussing it openly is one of the most helpful things you can do.
Signs of Suicide
Though by no means exhaustive, below are some signs of suicide.
- Talks about committing suicide
- Has trouble eating or sleeping
- Experiences drastic changes in behavior
- Loses interest in their personal appearance
- Neglecting self-care
- Reconnecting with old friends as if to say “bye”
- Withdraws from friends and/or social activities
- Loses interest in hobbies, work, school, etc.
- Prepares for death by making out a will and final arrangements
- Gives away prized possessions
- Has attempted suicide before
- Takes unnecessary risks
- Has had recent severe losses
- Is preoccupied with death and dying
- Increases use of alcohol or drugs
- Hopelessness and helplessness
How to help – Dos and Don’ts
Talking about suicide does NOT increase the likelihood of someone killing themselves. By connecting, showing empathy, and just talking to someone can make a huge difference. Here are some additional suggestions.
Some things to try to avoid:
- Do NOT minimize the feelings expressed by the person – e.g., you’ll get over it
- Do NOT be sworn to secrecy – … seek appropriate help instead
- Do NOT use clichés or try to debate with the person
- Do NOT leave them alone until help is provided
Some things you can do:
- Be aware and learn warning signs of suicide
- Take all threats or attempts seriously
- Be direct and ask if the person is thinking of suicide
- Ask about the plan and timeline (if applicable)
- Be non-judgmental and empathic
- Ask if there is anything you can do
- Draw on resources in the person’s network – who else can they lean on?
- Remove any obvious means e.g. firearms, drugs, sharps
- Get help from persons or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention.
If you or anyone you know are experiencing a crisis, such as feelings, thoughts, or behaviors of self-harm, harming others, and putting yourself or others at risk, please call 911. If you need help, connect with Crisis Service Canada responders by calling 1-833-456-4566, available 24/7/265. You can also text “Start” to 45645, available 4pm – Midnight EST. For additional support services, please visit the Mental Health Resources section.