As we have seen in the recent, tragic passing of Robin Williams, depression and suicide does not discriminate. Each year, depression affects 17 million people of all age groups, races, and economic backgrounds.
Suicide takes the lives of nearly 30,000 Americans every year and many who attempt suicide never seek professional care.
Today we are going to talk about many myths associated with suicide and our mission is to continue this conversation more openly in the hopes that people that are suffering silently will step forward and reach out for professional help.
Myth #1: Men attempt suicide more than women. Truth: 3 times more women attempt suicide than men. However, 4 times more men actually kill themselves.
Myth #2) Only young people are at risk of suicide. Truth: Most people think teenagers and young adults are most likely to commit suicide but the elderly are the most likely to commit suicide. The people at highest risk are white men over the age of 85.
Myth #3: A psychiatrist or psychologist can “tell” if someone is going to commit suicide Truth: Psychiatrists are trained to look for risk factors and try to assess risk of suicide, if there is a high risk, often we recommend hospitalization. However, sadly no-one can predict 100% who will commit suicide.
Myth #4: Thoughts about death and dying lead to suicide. Truth: Many people have thoughts of death that do not lead to suicide. When depressed many people have thoughts like “I would be better off dead” or “I am a burden to others” that do not necessarily lead to suicide attempts. HOWEVER, if you are having these thoughts routinely, it is best to share them with a professional so they can assess for depression and you can get help.
Myth #5: Talking about suicide will cause someone to become suicidal. Truth: Talking honestly and openly about suicide does not cause someone to become suicidal. If someone is talking about suicide AND has other risk factors like depression, substance abuse, etc it is a good idea to talk with a professional.
Myth #6: Self-harm behaviors like cutting your skin lightly with a knife lead to suicide. Truth Self-harm behaviors are not uncommon and sometimes they are used to relieve psychic pain or anxiety as well as a possible cry for help. Regardless the reasoning, it is a good idea to talk with a professional and understand the reason for these behaviors in order to get help and heal.
Myth #7: The USA has the highest suicide rate in the world. Truth: Many countries have 2 times the suicide rate of the US including South Korea, Japan, Sweden, France, and Russia.
If you are struggling and need help please reach out to our office immediately. We offer same day or next day urgent appointments and this can dramatically help you avoid expensive ER visits or even hospitalization. We are a patient focused practice and here to help you recover.
What other myths are you aware of regarding suicide? We’d love for you to share them below and then we can write more about this very serious and important topic.
Wishing You Mental Health and Happiness,
Dr. Jennie Byrne