The recent deaths of American fashion designer Kate Spade, and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, were a great loss of creative talents. Like the 2014 death of actor Robin Williams, it brings the difficult subject of suicide to our attention. Per the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, AFSP, each year approximately 45,000 Americans die, and for every suicide 25 attempt it. Suicide touches many people, not only some celebrities, and is the 10th leading cause of the death in the United States. Mentalhealth.gov shares that more than 9.4 million people living in the US had serious thoughts of suicide in the past 12 months. These staggering numbers demonstrate that we must address the issue now.
Here are some common misconceptions about suicide. Let’s expose the truth:
- Misconception: Suicide is not preventable. While some cases have no indication, most people contemplating suicide show warning signs. A person may withdraw from activities, display mood swings, increase the use of drugs or alcohol, or suggest that life is hopeless. Others may talk about wanting to die or suggest that there is no reason to live. If you or someone you know exhibits any of those symptoms, or demonstrates anger, agitation, or depression which lead to thoughts of suicide, it is vital to seek help. Crisis workers are available to talk 27 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for immediate assistance.
- Misconception: Attempted suicide is a cry for attention. In general, people do not attempt suicide for attention. Instead, they are more likely concerned with thoughts of ending pain which they are experiencing. If someone you know talks about feelings of worthlessness or hints at suicide, do not ignore it. Never allow anyone who is experiencing severe depression, emotional pain, or reckless behavior to isolate themselves. It is best to help them seek emotional, mental, and physical support from a reliable health resource. If you believe someone is in immediate danger, do not leave them alone. Stay with them and call 911 for assistance.
- Misconception: People who commit suicide go to hell. Christianity calls upon us to love one another and ourselves. The fifth commandment clearly says, “Thou shalt not kill.” However, the church also stresses divine mercy, meaning that God loves us all and wants us to know that His Mercy is greater than our sin. God is the final judge, and it is not for mankind to say who will end up in heaven or hell. If you or someone you know is in the need of spiritual help, religious leaders can offer well needed guidance and provide additional support along with doctors and therapists.
- Misconception: People commit suicide to hurt those around them. This statement is incorrect. In many cases, people who want to end their lives mistakenly believe that they are a burden to others. Sometimes they suffer from traumatic pasts, poor relationships, and damaging experiences. However, most times they wish to escape from the internal negative feelings they are experiencing. The action does not mean that they are incapable of loving people. Many people who are suicidal mistakenly believe that the world will be better without them in it, which is totally untrue.
- Misconception: Medication will fix everything. A qualified medical doctor and patient should decide what course of action can increase wellness. While medications are often prescribed and are helpful, in rare cases they can exacerbate feelings of depression or hopelessness. It is imperative for patients to stay in touch with their doctors to report negative experiences while taking medications. It is also important for families and friends to be proactive in taking steps to help their loved ones. Often, medication is not solely prescribed to help a person. Counseling and other therapies are offered, too.
- Misconception: Things will never get better. A person who is suicidal is unable to deal with the vast number of emotions they are experiencing. They often feel a flood of negative thoughts and are unable to properly reason. Therefore, it is necessary for anyone who is thinking about suicide to reach out for help, or for friends and family to get them immediate assistance. The good news is that with help life can get better.
- Misconception: I am worthless. In Christianity, God teaches us that every life is precious. He created you and cares for you. We must love and support one another, and work together to dismiss feelings of shame associated with getting help. Let’s open the dialogue and create a safe environment in which people experiencing mental health issues can get the help they deserve, without guilt. The outreach must be extended to American Veterans who experience higher rates of suicide in comparison to the public.