Suicide Myths

 

Myth Fact
You have to be mentally ill to even contemplate suicide Everyone can be susceptible to suicidal behavior when under severe stress
People who talk about suicide are not serious and will not go through with it Every suicidal claim needs to be taken seriously. Risk assessment is needed
There is no way to know whether someone is suicidal People who suicide/are suicidal usually show warning signs and clues
Asking a person about suicide may provoke them to carry out the plan Asking people about suicide will often make them feel understood and relieved
People who die by suicide are very determined and will die anyways Suicidal people are often ambivalent. On the one hand, they want to kill themselves in order to end their pain. On the other hand, they want someone to be there to help them and listen to them
A person talking about suicide just wants to manipulate people and seek attention. They usually do not have the courage to harm themselves Every suicidal claim needs to be taken seriously. The person may be in distress and crying for help
Once a person has made a serious suicide attempt, that person will have a smaller chance to try again People with previous suicide attempts are in a higher risk for suicide
Once a person feels less depressed, it implies that they are less troubled with their problems and will be less likely to attempt suicide Depressed patients who show improvement may in fact be more at risk – they may have regained their energy which they originally lacked

Risk Factors for Suicide

Risk factors for suicide refer to personal/environmental (including social and cultural aspects) characteristics that are associated with suicide. People affected by one or more of these risk factors may have a greater probability of engaging in suicidal behavior and suicide is always caused by multiple factors.

The risk factors for suicide can be roughly classified into personal, psychological and environmental factors:

 

Personal Factors Psychological Factors Environmental Factors
Mental health disorders (e.g. Major Depression) Feelings of despair and/or hopelessness Involvement in an car accident or any events perceived to be disastrous
Previous suicide attempts Experiences of depression, gloominess, etc. for long periods of time Physical abuse (regardless of whether they are the perpetrator or victim)
Self-injury (without intent to die) Impulsiveness Sexual abuse (as a victim)
Serious illnesses Weak problem-solving and/or coping skills Interpersonal difficulties or losses
Alcoholism; heavy drinking A feeling of being isolated/excluded; loneliness Bullying, either as victim or perpetrator
Negative thoughts Lack of social support
A feeling of heavy pressure/stress on themselves Fallout between a family member, friend or lover
Death of parent, relative, friend or lover
Death of parent or other relative (especially parents)
Parental mental health problems (e.g. depressive disorders)

Suicide Warnings

 

The more warning signs present in an individual, the higher the risk of suicide. Some of these warning signs include

  • Disclosing suicidal or self-harmful thoughts, as well as any possible plans conceived, via conversation, online messages/comments or at home, etc.
  • Threatening to suicide
  • Searching for methods of suicide, and/or how to undergo such methods
  • Attempting to gather the materials needed for carrying out the suicide (e.g. drugs)
  • Dealing with matters of a post-mortem nature (e.g. writing a suicide note, donating personal belongings to others)
  • Feeling hopeless or despair about the future. Future plans are no longer pondered about
    • “This world will be better off without me.”
    • “I can’t find a reason to live.”
    • “I can’t handle it anymore. Suicide is the only way out.”
  • Drastic changes in emotions and temperament
    • Depression
    • Irritability; quick to temper
    • Becoming violent
    • Sleeping and/or eating problems
    • Clear self-isolation; unwilling to connect with people
    • Lack of care for their hygiene and appearance
  • Excessive drinking and/or drug abuse

Occasionally, some people will threaten suicide multiple times to seek attention. We may believe this is impetuous, manipulative behavior. But by doing this, it may also present that they are in extreme despair, and that they need help. Therefore, every suicidal threat or intent cannot be simply overlooked.

Protective Factors for Suicide

 

Protective factors are personal/environmental characteristics that reduce the probability of suicide. Protective factors can buffer the effects of risk factors, increasing resilience (i.e. the ability to cope with risk factors). Some protective factors include:

  • Good interpersonal relationships
  • Social support (e.g. from family, partners/companions, friends and affiliated groups/organizations)
  • A stable emotional state; emotional “equilibrium”
  • Positive and effective problem-solving skills
  • Self-confidence
  • A healthy lifestyle (e.g. sufficient exercise, good dietary habits and sufficient, quality time for sleep, etc.)
  • Willingness to seek or receive help

青少年自殺風險及保護因素、自殺警號參考資料Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2012). Preventing Suicide: A Toolkit for High Schools. Rockville, MD: Center for Mental Health Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.