By Nancy Virden (c)2015, 2021
Let’s talk. Please.
Suicide is not rare. Suicide might be a scary conversation and easier to avoid than to discuss. However, its deadliness increases when the topic is stifled or shamed. The following myths reveal common stigmas and why the subjects of depression and suicide are often hidden behind platitudes and silence.
MYTH 1) Mentioning suicide will give a hurting person the idea. No, everyone is aware suicide is an option. Bringing it up in concern allows someone to see that you care for her existence. Imagine having all your negative thoughts about yourself bottled up for years. What would it mean for someone to say, “I’m glad you are alive. Are you in danger of suicide? Let me help you. I want you here.”
MYTH 2) Suicide is motivated by selfishness. It is very difficult to think rationally when suffering is all one’s reality. Overwhelming pain mixed with the perception of zero options is a major motivation for suicide. I know a dozen men and women who have attempted suicide. Those who shared with me what was whirling in their heads as they tried to end their lives expressed the belief that family would be better off with them gone. Sometimes, the fear of becoming a burden to loved ones was another reason to pursue death. Afterward, as these people recovered and healthier reasoning returned, they were grateful to not have hurt anyone by dying by suicide.
MYTH 3) Suicide proves a character flaw. It is said that suicide is not weakness; it only means one fought longer than was possible. That is why you hear reports like, “he was so strong,” and “she was so cheerful.” What is certain is that brave, loving, and loved people die by suicide each day, and it is tragic.
Many survivors of suicide attempts share their stories in hopes of helping others find a way out of despair. This they do while stigma criticizes and dishonors them. People who are open about their mental health challenges often have trouble finding jobs. The strength of character they have always had keeps them at it even though supporters are few.
MYTH 4) Most of us do not know anyone who has suicidal thoughts. Sorry, that is untrue. With one death by suicide every 11 minutes just in the U.S., suicidal thinking is prevalent. Maybe we believe we do not know anyone who struggles with suicidal thoughts because few talk about it. Even after a death by suicide, reports often read overdose, or lost in one’s sleep, accident, or undisclosed cause of death.
Many people are encouraged by having someone safe to talk to about their struggles and joys. Freely talking about suicide opens the door for people to seek treatment, knowing they have support. Lives are saved.
MYTH 5) People who talk about feeling suicidal do not follow through. This is a very dangerous misunderstanding. Most people who complete suicide have talked about or hinted at it in weeks prior. This is why such talk is to be taken seriously. Two wise questions are appropriate: “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” and “Do you have a plan for ending your life?”
When a family member displays warning signs, it is unhelpful to dismiss them. Instead, ask one of the two questions sincerely and calmly.
MYTH 6) No one other than experts can stop a suicide death. Negativity is the result of and fuel for depression. Thoughts of worthlessness, hopelessness, an overwhelming sense of loss and the like are combated by outside positive perspectives. Kind voices, not panicky and accusatory, are a reprieve from the inner battle. Almost any kind of caring action may make a difference.
MYTH 7) The one who attempted suicide and did not die was only looking for attention. “She did not mean it.” How invalidating it is to assume such a lie and accuse someone of faking what was perhaps the worst moment of her life? Firstly, if an attempt at suicide was for attention, it is because that person desperately needs attention! Suicide is not a normal response to life’s stressors. Think about it. How lonely and emotionally isolated must a person be to cry out for help in such an extreme manner?
Secondly, because a suicidal mindset is not likely a very rational one, and cognitive dissonance can twist reasoning and logic, people who are very serious about suicide often fall short of their goal. Underestimating the lethality of a chosen means is common. Sometimes an attempter means to die but changes his mind and calls 9.1.1. Overall, men die by suicide at higher rates than women largely because they are less inhibited by violence, are more likely to own firearms, and less likely to ask for help.
Open discussion draws out people who hurt because often they have no one willing to approach their deepest point of pain. Of course, most of us are not mental health professionals and cannot offer therapy. We are all able to listen and remind those who suffer that help is available. Suicide is preventable. People are worth our effort.
For a brief training on what to say to someone you think may be considering suicide, go to https://www.qprinstitute.com
Today’s Helpful Word
Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.
Nancy’s latest FREE e-books! Click on the pictures for immediate access:
Always the Fight Ministries has been displaying compassion for those fighting mental illness, addiction, or abuse since 2012. Nancy is the founder and voice of ATFM and openly shares her emotional resurrection from despair.
NOTE: I am not a doctor or a mental health professional, and speak only from personal experiences and observations. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.
If you are feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here.
If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S. or go to your nearest emergency room. In the EU call 112. (For other international emergency numbers, go here ). Hope and help are yours!
HOLY BIBLE, NEW LIVING TRANSLATION, COPYRIGHT © 1996, 2004, 2015 BY TYNDALE HOUSE FOUNDATION. USED BY PERMISSION OF TYNDALE HOUSE PUBLISHERS, INC., CAROL STREAM, ILLINOIS 60188, PER BIBLE GATEWAY. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. RETRIEVED FROM HTTPS://WWW.BIBLEGATEWAY.COM/