According to the CDC, suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S.–but did you know that more than half of those that die by suicide do not have known mental health disorders? Join us today as we explore what other common misconceptions about suicide and suicide prevention are and learn what you can do to start helping those around you immediately.
10 Myths and Misconceptions About Suicide and Suicide Prevention
by June Hunt (from Suicide Prevention)
#1 Fable: “Never talk about suicide with deeply depressed people—it could give them ideas.”
- Fact: Asking about what someone is feeling doesn’t create suicidal thoughts. You can assume that most depressed or very anxious people have given some thought to taking their lives. Demystify the subject by talking about suicide. Ask questions such as:
- “What do you think about suicide?”
- “Do your friends talk about it?”
- “Do you know anyone who has died of suicide?”
- “Would you ever take your own life?”
- For a person considering suicide, having someone to talk with can be a powerful preventive. The Bible says …
“The wise in heart are called discerning, and pleasant words promote instruction.” (Proverbs 16:21)
- Fact: Of those who took their own lives, approximately 75% gave clues or warnings to friends or family. Take any threat of suicide seriously. Someone who talks about suicide gives others the opportunity to intervene. God’s Word says…
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2)
#3 Fable: “More suicides occur during the winter holidays.”
- Fact: This is a long-standing myth; however, suicides are actually lowest in December. In general:
- Suicide rates are below average in the winter and above average in the spring, peaking in April.
- For youth, suicide rates are higher in the summer.
- For middle-aged adults age 36 and up, suicide rates rise again in the fall.
- In general, suicide risks decrease as social interactions increase. Becoming aware of the most frequent occurrences of suicide will help you discern when a struggler is at risk.
“The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out.” (Proverbs 18:15)
#4 Fable: “Talking about the method of someone’s suicide with all the gory details and the emotional impact on loved ones will help prevent others from committing suicide.”
- Fact: Presenting precise details of a suicide, including the heartbreaking reaction of the family, can spark an explosion of copycat suicides. School officials and people in the media have learned that suicide can be contagious; therefore, they curtail details of what happened and instead focus on why it happened as a preventative. “Suicide contagion” refers to suicidal behavior on the part of vulnerable people who can be easily influenced to commit suicide because of a previous attempt or another’s death. The Bible often gives warning about the misuse of our words.
“There is … a time to be silent and a time to speak.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7)
#5 Fable: “Everyone who commits suicide is mentally ill.”
- Fact: No, not everyone. Of those who kill themselves, approximately 90% are afflicted with a diagnosable psychiatric disorder. However, look at the life of Elijah; he was terrified and wanted to die.
“Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. … [He] prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, Lord,’ he said. ‘Take my life.’” (1 Kings 19:3–4)
- Fact: No one is destined to die of suicide. Just because one family member dies by suicide doesn’t mean that other family members will do the same. However, be aware:
- Based on statistical data, those with depressed family members are two times more vulnerable to depression than those who have no family history of depression. Likewise, “50% of manic-depressives have at least one parent with the disorder.” Untreated depression can lead to suicide.
- Suicide can also be a “learned behavior” that is passed down through family environment. For example, the Bible reveals in numerous places that the sins of our fathers can be repeated by successive generations.
“He committed all the sins his father had done before him; his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God.” (1 Kings 15:3)
#7 Fable: “Suicide is the unpardonable sin.”
- Fact: Nowhere in the Bible is suicide presented as the unpardonable sin. The unpardonable sin is the unwillingness to yield to the convicting work of the Holy Spirit, which leads to salvation through Jesus Christ.
“Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.” (Mark 3:29)
#8 Fable: “Christians who take their own lives lose their salvation.”
- Fact: According to the Word of God, once you have believed in and relied on Christ as your Lord and Savior, you have the promised guarantee from the Spirit of God, who is deposited in you, that you will inherit heaven and live eternally in the presence of God.
“You also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession.” (Ephesians 1:13–14)
- Fact: Temporary hopelessness can accompany severe stress and can strain a person’s faith. Likewise, physical illnesses, such as a brain tumor, can change thought processes in the brain, resulting in “suicidal ideation.” Even the most sincere believer can become engulfed in suicidal despair. When the godly prophet Jeremiah was tormented and his life threatened, he lamented …
“Cursed be the day I was born! May the day my mother bore me not be blessed! … Why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame?” (Jeremiah 20:14–18)
#10 Fable: “Once people attempt suicide, they will always be weak and unable to face difficulties in life.”
- Fact: In the context of a person’s whole life, a true crisis usually lasts for only a brief duration of time. Most people learn valuable life lessons during their lowest moments. God rescues from destruction those who turn to Him for His love and acceptance. This is clearly seen in the life of Isaiah.
“Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back.” (Isaiah 38:17)
Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-Suicide (784-2433)
Nothing is as heart-breaking as a loved one who has lost hope and is contemplating suicide. A person who seems cheerful one day can slip into despair and hopelessness the next. God’s heart is tender and full of compassion toward those experiencing deep pain.
Prevention requires compassion toward the sufferer, along with practical steps and biblical assurance of God’s love. Suicide Prevention covers the steps to identifying and preventing suicide using a Christian approach. You’ll learn how to better reflect God’s heart to help those hurting, and you’ll gain practical insight on what to say and what to do as you reach out to a suicidal loved one.
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