Suicide. Just hearing this word can evoke a range of emotions. For many people, the initial reaction to hearing about suicide is discomfort or fear. Often times, our behavior is to automatically deny that suicide is an issue that affects us personally; or we may simply ignore it and hope the problem goes away on its own.
Unfortunately, denial will not solve our problems. If we continue to close our eyes to the issue of suicide and suicidal thinking and continue to believe “that is a problem in other communities… this doesn’t happen to the kids at our school… this is not a problem in our neighborhood,” we are missing opportunities to intervene and help the young people in our lives.
Now you might be thinking… “I’m not so sure I believe you. I know a lot about suicide and it’s not something I need to worry about.” Well, I am here to challenge that thinking and to talk about common misconceptions about suicide. I want to bring awareness to the issue of suicide among youth and begin to dispel some common myths about suicide.
- “I heard that if you ask if someone is suicidal, you are putting the idea in their head… it will make them want to kill themselves.” This is 100 percent inaccurate. Chances are if you ask someone if they are thinking about suicide, they have been thinking about it already. Having an open discussion with someone about this will not put new ideas in his or her head or increase his or her suicidal thoughts. In fact, it may do the opposite – it may show that someone cares and is paying attention. This may be a chance to get this person help.
- “Suicide is not a problem in my community, or my county” or “Suicide is an isolated event and only affects certain people.” The statistics tell a different story. Suicide is a very real problem and it does not discriminate between race, social class, religion or gender. Every year, at least 44,193 Americans die by suicide. Suicide affects our youth and has devastating consequences for those that are impacted by it. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among our youth, aged 15-24; and for every completed suicide, there are at least 25 attempts.*
- “There is no way to prevent suicide.” Suicide is preventable! There are ways to get someone you know to get the help he or she needs. We just have to be aware of the warning signs and know what to do when we see them.
- “If a person speaks about taking their own life they are just looking for attention.” I hear this frequently and really want to challenge this thinking. Chances are, if someone is feeling suicidal it is likely he or she is in emotional pain and turmoil. The person may be suffering from extreme stress personally, socially, occupationally or educationally. The person may have a mental health or substance use disorder and are struggling to find the proper help. Someone who is suicidal has lost hope and is looking for a solution to end his or her suffering – the person is not simply looking for attention.
Let’s start to get real about this. Suicide is a major problem that is impacting our youth and we need to do something about it. We need to open a dialogue about suicide and help dispel some common myths. Help me in spreading the word on suicide awareness.
By Kristen Roye, PsyD
Statistics courtesy of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.