By Jeanette Arnold, MSW, LCSW, ACSW
Suicide is the tenth most common cause of death in the United States. People may consider suicide when they are hopeless and can't see any other solution to their problems.
September is suicide prevention awareness month and a good time to revisit the myths and facts about suicide.
Myth: The tendency toward suicide is inherited and passed from generation to generation.
Fact: Although suicidal behavior does tend to run in families, it does not appear to be transmitted genetically.
Myth: The suicidal person wants to die and feels that there is no turning back.
Fact: Suicidal people are usually ambivalent about dying and frequently will seek help immediately after attempting to harm themselves.
Myth: All suicidal people are deeply depressed.
Fact: Although depression is often associated with suicidal feelings, not all people who kill themselves are obviously depressed. In fact, some suicidal people appear to be happier than they’ve been in years; this is often because they have decided to “resolve” all of their problems by killing themselves. Also, people who are extremely depressed often do not have the energy to kill themselves.
Myth: There is no correlation between alcoholism and suicide.
Fact: Alcoholism and suicide often go hand in hand. Alcoholics are prone to suicidal behavior and even people who normally don’t drink will often ingest alcohol shortly before killing themselves.
Myth: Suicidal people are mentally ill.
Fact: Although many suicidal people are depressed and distraught, most of them could not be diagnosed as mentally ill; perhaps only about 25% of them are actually psychotic.
Myth: Once someone attempts suicide, that person will always entertain thoughts of suicide.
Fact: Most people who are suicidal have these thoughts for only a very brief period once in their lives. If the attempter receives the proper support and assistance, he will probably never be suicidal again. Only about 10% of the attempters later kill themselves.
Myth: If you ask someone about her suicidal intentions, you’ll only be encouraging her to kill herself.
Fact: Actually the opposite is true. Asking someone directly about her suicidal intentions will often lower her anxiety level and act as a deterrent to suicidal behavior by encouraging the ventilation of pent-up emotions.
Myth: Suicide is common among lower class.
Fact: Suicide crosses all socioeconomic distinctions and no one class is more susceptible to it than another.
Myth: Suicidal people rarely seek medical attention.
Fact: Research has consistently shown that about 75% of suicidal people will visit a physician within the month before they kill themselves.
Myth: Suicide is a problem that is limited to young people.
Fact: Suicide rates rise with age and reach their highest level among males in their seventies and eighties.
Myth: The cause often includes the Christmas season; December has a high suicide rate.
Fact: There is no rash of suicides at Christmas and December has the lowest suicide rate of any month.
Myth: Cold climates are related to high suicide rates.
Fact: Minnesota, Illinois, Nebraska and North Dakota have low suicide rates, while Arizona and Florida have two of the highest suicide rates in the nation.