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Myths and misinformation on suicide

By Annan Boodram – The Caribbean Voice

In our work on suicide prevention, The Caribbean Voice has received a lot of comments to do with God, religion, and temples. Yes, faith-based counselors and individuals with deep religious convictions do believe that faith in God can help. In fact, one commentator posted, “Stop begging and send them to church to pray to God.”

So yes, we are certain that some suicidal individuals might have been brought out of that mindset by faith-based counseling. But faith-based counseling does not work with all, is not available to all and faith-based leaders are not generally equipped to offer clinical counseling.

Besides, people who deeply believe in God, still die by suicide. So it’s clear that there must be a range of strategies and access. It’s like someone having fatal cancer and deep faith in God. Such a person would not sit at home and say ‘God will heal me’. Instead, that person will seek professional help but also pray. So people who are depressed and suicidal must do the same – seek professional help and pray if they have deep faith.

Furthermore, a number of individuals also simply dismiss suicide as the victim’s personal choice and business and feel there is no need to get involved in suicide prevention since nothing can really be done. Yet there is a tremendous body of literature and shared experiences that prove that something can indeed be done and that suicide is preventable.

So as we move forward, it becomes important to dispel some of the prevailing myths and misinformation about suicide. For too long suicide and factors that drive this crisis have been viewed as ‘taboo’ and not an appropriate topic to be discussed in public. That taboo must now be laid to rest.

Vector illustration of stop suicide concept background

Myth # 1:  People who are suicidal want to die.

Fact: Suicide is seen as a way to end the pain. A suicidal person does not see any other option but those who have survived attempted suicide say they never wanted to die.

Myth #2: People, who talk about killing themselves, are just looking for attention and won’t do it.

Fact: If someone is talking about suicide, regardless of how it is expressed, it must be taken seriously. That person is in pain and crying out for help. If you’re in doubt, keep talking to the person and listen carefully, then get professional help for that person. Unless this is done that person could end up carrying out the threat.

Myth #3: If people are determined to kill themselves, then nothing is going to stop them.

Fact: Various studies indicate that showing someone you care and giving that person just five minutes of your time has proven to reduce suicidal attempts. A person’s urge to kill him/herself, regardless of the reason, can be changed. A study of those who survived the jump from the Golden Gate Bridge stated they would not have jumped if someone had just spoken or even smiled at them during their period of crisis.

Myth #4: People who die by suicide never tell or show any signs of distress.

Fact: In various studies, it was noted that up to 80 percent of victims leave clues, either verbally or through their change in behaviors. That is why it is important to learn about and become familiar with the warning signs.

Myth#5: Discussing suicide with someone will put the idea in his or her head.

Fact: Talking about suicide lets the person know you care and that he/she is not alone. It gives a sense of relief and promotes a greater chance that the person will unburden himself/herself.

Myth #6: Only the poor commit suicide.

Fact: Suicide does not discriminate and it can affect the lives of anyone regardless of social status or financial background, as has been seen over and over.

Myth #7: Telling someone to cheer up when he/she is depressed will stop him/her from acting crazy.

Fact: Telling someone to cheer up will cause more distress because it will appear as if that person’s feelings do not matter and the person is not being taken seriously.

Myth #8: People are suicidal on impulse, or a whim.

Fact: Not true. Those who end their lives would have thought about it over and over in their mind; it’s this process that drives them towards the final act if timely professional help is not accessed.

Myth #9: Only cowards commit suicide.

Fact: It’s not a question or being a coward or being brave. The reality is that it is difficult to imagine the agony someone goes through before attempting or dying by suicide.

Myth #10: If you go to church you will not be suicidal.

Fact: Regular church attendance, by itself, has not stopped individuals from attempting or dying by suicide. And while belief and faith-based counseling may help some it takes more than that to help others.

Myth #11: Only people who drink try suicide.

Fact: Alcoholism or being under the influence of alcohol is not a reason for suicide, but may provide Dutch courage to the already suicidal.

Myth #12: People who die by suicide are selfish.

Fact: Actually it’s almost the opposite – people die by suicide because they think they are saving their loved ones from having to disrupt their (the loved ones) lives to deal with their own (those who are suicidal) pain and agony of the suicide victim.

In the final analysis please remember that ‘Suicide Prevention is Everybody’s Business’ and if each of us plays a part, we can save lives and enable potential to flower. Also do remember that suicide is never an answer, no matter what the problem or issue is; suicide simply leaves too many unanswered questions.

Besides suicide does not eradicate pain, it leaves behind a circle of agony that embraces those left behind. So we urge all to become familiar with suicide warning signs which can be found all over the internet. Remember, five minutes of your time can save a life.



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