Myths About Suicide

Common misunderstanding and misconceptions about suicide

  1. Myth: Asking someone about suicide will put the idea in their head and make them more likely to kill themselves.

    Fact: It is safer to ask about suicide than not to ask about suicide. Research shows that it is not dangerous to ask. If the answer is yes, the person with thoughts of suicide can be supported. If the answer is no, no harm has been done. People often find great relief in being able to openly talk about their thoughts and feelings about suicide.

  2. Myth: Talking about suicide is attention seeking behaviour.

    Fact: Anyone considering suicide needs serious attention. They are in pain and may feel hopeless. Most people who die by suicide have talked about it first; we should always take seriously anyone talking about suicide.

  3. Myth: Thinking about suicide means someone is mentally ill.

    Fact: Many people who have thoughts of suicide have no mental illness.

  4. Myth: If someone tells a professional about their thoughts of suicide, they will be sectioned and admitted to hospital (detained under the Mental Health Act).

    Fact: A section is only used when three people (an Approved Mental Health Professional or nearest relative and two doctors) agree that the person is suffering from a mental disorder and needs to be detained for assessment or treatment, either for their own safety or others’. If a person with thoughts of suicide has no mental illness it is very unlikely that they will be sectioned.

  5. Myth: Thinking about suicide is rare and unusual.

    Fact: Thinking about suicide is part of being human. Anyone has the potential to have thoughts of suicide. One in 5 people have thought of taking their own life at some point in their lives. One in 15 people are estimated to have made an attempt at some point in their life.

  6. Myth: Certain groups of people are at higher risk of suicide and we don't need to worry about people who aren't in those groups.

    Fact: Anyone has the potential to have thoughts of suicide. While certain groups do have a statistically higher likelihood of dying by suicide, if we only focus on those groups, we miss all the other individuals who may be struggling with thoughts of suicide.

  7. Myth: It is weak or selfish to consider suicide.

    Fact: People who attempt suicide are usually struggling with feelings of pain, despair, hopelessness, worthlessness or other overwhelming feelings. They may believe that suicide is the only way out, and be unable to see beyond their intense thoughts and feelings.

  8. Myth: Most suicides happen with no warning.

    Fact: Most people struggling with thoughts of suicide find a way to communicate that they need help, sometimes at an unconscious level. However, sometimes these warning signs can be missed, dismissed or avoided. It is important to be alert to potential warning signs and be prepared to ask about suicide if you are concerned for someone else. See the 'Worried About Someone' section.

  9. Myth: It's easy to tell if someone's thinking about suicide.

    Fact: Sometimes the potential warning signs can be very subtle. A person thinking about suicide may appear to be okay, or even cheerful. Sometimes, particularly if someone has been ill for a long time with depression, making a decision to die by suicide can bring them some relief and their mood can appear to improve. It is important to be alert to changes in someone's behaviour, and to help someone talk about how they are feeling. If we are concerned it is important that we ask about suicide. See 'Worried About Someone - Practical Steps'.

  10. Myth: Self-harm is always a sign that someone is thinking about suicide.

    Fact: Many people self-harm as a way of coping with difficult feelings, but are not thinking about suicide. If you are concerned that someone's self-harm may be linked to thoughts of suicide, the only way to be sure is to ask.

  11. Myth: If someone is talking about suicide, it means they are less likely to attempt suicide.

    Fact: Many people who attempt or die by suicide give verbal or non-verbal signs to others beforehand. Someone talking about suicide may only just be holding on to life. Any suggestion of suicidal thoughts should always be taken seriously. See 'Worried About Someone - Potential Warning Signs'.

  12. Myth: If you take your life, people (family, friends, loved ones) will be far better off without you.

    Fact: Suicide has a profound and devastating impact on people left behind. Someone considering suicide may feel that they are a burden to others around them, and be unable to recognise the effect that their death will have on loved ones.

  13. Myth: Suicide is easy and painless.

    Fact: People may perceive suicide as painless because they anticipate it will bring relief to their own unbearable mental or emotional pain. Dying by suicide is not easy. Many suicide attempts are not fatal and can leave the person with permanent damage to their body and/or brain.

  14. Myth: If someone wants to kill themselves, there is nothing that can be done to stop them.

    Fact: Suicide can be a preventable death. Research tells us that most people who are suicidal are not 100% decided about dying. A part of them wants to live, and needs help to find a way to stay alive. Doubts about suicide can remain up to and including the point of dying.

  15. Myth: Suicide is the only way out.

    Fact: Suicide is a possible choice for someone feeling desperate, but there is another choice other than life or suicide. Choosing to stay safe for now is a third choice that many people will make, given the opportunity and support. See 'My StayAlive - Staying Safe for Now'.

  16. Myth: Once someone has thoughts of suicide, those thoughts will always be there.

    Fact: For most people feeling suicidal is an experience that lasts for a limited time. Research shows that the most intense periods of feeling suicidal will change after around 24 hours. Our thoughts and feelings can change from moment to moment, hour to hour. With help and support a person's feelings about life and suicide can change. However, some people will continue to have times in their life when they consider suicide, and extra support is needed for these people. The tools in the My StayAlive section could be a helpful starting point for ongoing support.

  17. Myth: If someone is suicidal it is my job to persuade them to stay alive.

    Fact: The most important thing you can do is help someone to talk about their thoughts and feelings about suicide, and try to understand how they feel. You can also help them to get crisis support if they need it. You might be part of the process of helping somebody choose to stay alive but ultimately they need to do part of this work too. See 'Find Help Now'.

  18. Myth: If someone is suicidal it's none of my business - only mental health professionals can help.

    Fact: Suicide prevention is everybody's business. Anyone can learn to support someone who is suicidal. Caring enough to get involved can make a real difference to someone's life.

  19. Myth: I have failed if I need to ask for help again and again.

    Fact: No matter how many times you have asked for help, it's okay to need help again and again. Reaching out and asking for help is an act of courage, not failure. The fact that you are alive now and asking for help can remind you that you have survival skills you can use again.

  20. Myth: Depression and suicide are always linked.

    Fact: Many people with depression do not think about suicide, and many people die by suicide without having depression. If you are concerned about your mental health or thoughts of suicide it can help to see a GP (family doctor). If you have depression there may be medication or counselling that could help you. Your GP can address any underlying physical health issues.