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HEALING

Dispelling the Myths about Suicide

By Candy Arrington
Guest Writer

Dispelling the Myths about Suicide

  • Suicide accounts for relatively few deaths in the United States. False

Every seventeen minutes, someone in the United States commits suicide. Each day approximately 86 Americans commit suicide, and 1,500 people attempt suicide. Suicide is the nation's eighth leading cause of death. For those 15-24 years of age, suicide is the third leading cause of death. More Americans, an estimated 31,000, kill themselves than are killed by homicide.

For every completed suicide, there are twenty-five attempted suicides. An estimated 750,000 suicide attempts annually affect the lives of millions of family members. The number of survivors grows 186,000 each year. For every suicide, at least six other people's lives are affected.

  • Talking about suicide will plant the idea in a depressed person's mind. False

This is not an accurate assumption because a depressed person has usually considered suicide long before it is mentioned by someone else. This myth is one that costs more lives than it saves. A suicidal individual is actually relieved that someone has finally noticed his pain. Talking about suicide decreases the troubled person's vulnerability by reducing his isolation. A person isolated in his pain is much more likely to commit suicide.

  • People who talk about suicide usually don't follow through with it. False

Suicidal people really want help more than they want to die. Talking about killing themselves is a cry for help. Many people through fear and ignorance do not acknowledge this cry for help and refuse to get involved. You can be sure that when someone talks about suicide, they are seriously considering it.

  • Most suicides occur without warning. False

It may seem a suicide has occurred without warning, but usually some sort of suicidal gesture has taken place prior to the act. Any of the following are clues to a suicidal mindset: withdrawal, moodiness, depression, aggression or risk-taking, alcohol and drug abuse, eating disorders, personality changes, threats, giving away possessions, and diminished sexual interest. Although it may appear to the family that the event was without warning, usually a psychological autopsy of the suicide victim reveals suicidal precursors.

  • The tendency toward suicide is inherited. False

There is no genetic predisposition to suicide. However, suicides do tend to run in families. Suicide has a hugely negative affect on surviving family members, which sometimes leads to suicidal thoughts or attempts on their part. Suicidal behavioral patterns do seem to follow family lines.

  • If there is no note, it was not a suicide. False

Approximately two thirds of those who commit suicide do not leave a note.

  • When depression lifts, suicide is no longer a concern. False

When a depressed person experiences a period of apparent improvement, his overall condition may actually be one of greater danger. Improvement may be a result of resolving to go ahead with suicide and relief that the struggle of making the decision is over.

  • A suicidal person cannot be talked out of it if he is intent on dying. False

Almost every suicidal person is struggling with the decision to live or die. There are usually two internal voices shouting "yes" and "no." All it may take to save a life is for a concerned family member or friend to step in and show interest in the suicidal person's struggle. For a person wavering between choosing life or death, a concerned, compassionate, external voice can tip the scales to the side of choosing to live. However, there are some situations where no matter how hard an intervener tries, the person is past the point of no return.

  • Women threaten suicide, but only men follow through with it. False

Although women make far more suicidal gestures than men, they attempt suicide 3 to 1, but usually chose slower acting, less lethal methods, such as prescription medications, thus increasing their chance or rescue and survival. Men make far more attempts. Suicidal behavior in men seems to be more lethal. Men complete suicide about 3 to 1 because they are more likely to use faster acting, more lethal means, such as guns or cars. That probably explains why more men actually commit suicide. Men try harder.

  • Only certain people are the suicidal type. False

Although some people are at higher risk of committing suicide, there is no suicidal personality type. Suicide tends to be a cross-cultural phenomenon affecting all socio-economic groups.

  • Only insane or "crazy" people commit suicide. False

A person who thinks about or tries to commit suicide is not necessarily insane. It is possible for negative thought patterns and depression to overtake anyone to the point of wanting to end it all. If someone in your family committed suicide, that doesn't make the person or you crazy. Sadly, this stigma is still attached to many surviving families in our society.

  • People who commit suicide haven't sought medical help prior to the attempt. False

Many times physical ailments accompany depression. Suicidal people often seek medical treatment for physical problems before an attempt. Some seek counseling but get discouraged when they don't see immediate results and discontinue counseling.

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Portions of this article excerpted from AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (Broadman & Holman 2003) by David Cox and Candy Arrington. Used with permission.

Candy is a winner in the 2001 and 2003 Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference contest in the unpublished article category and is a judge for the 2004 Writers Digest self-published book contest. She is also a C.L.A.S.S. (Christian Leaders Authors and Speakers Services) graduate. Contact Candy by e-mail at CNAnSptbg@aol.com, or log onto her Web site, www.CandyArrington.com.

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