It is time that we as a society openly talk about the seriou..." /> It is time that we as a society openly talk about the seriou..." />

Understanding Suicide: 5 Myths about Suicide

Silhouette of girl grievingIt is time that we as a society openly talk about the serious impact of suicide and mental health challenges. Suicide is a difficult topic for many people to discuss, though occasionally it is brought more into public view in instances such as the death of Robin Williams.

The numbers behind suicide are startling. Statistics show that nearly 40,000 people die from suicide in the United States every year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list it as the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. In fact, it can be estimated that a young person dies from suicide every two hours. One of the most discouraging facts about suicide is that most people who attempt suicide never seek professional help or care.

Deaths by suicide do not just affect the person who ends his or her life. Suicide also has a negative impact on the friends, family, acquaintances, and community left behind. Effectively preventing suicide is difficult and made harder by the stigma linked to it. However, improved awareness and understanding can help in reducing what is a largely preventable serious public health problem. It is essential that public attitudes change and we welcome others to share their pain and seek help when necessary.

In order to move forward in discussions and understanding about suicide, it is helpful to dispel common myths about suicide.

Myths about Suicide

1. Suicide is not a global issue.

This is simply not true. Only about 5% of suicides worldwide happen in the U.S. Internationally, the World Health Organization estimates 800,000 die by suicide every year, which equates to about one death from suicide every 40 seconds. While some cultures, social groups, and ages have higher rates of suicide, suicide presents a problem across all cultures, genders, and ages. In fact, many people passively think about suicide at one point or another, as inner pain and suffering tend to weigh heavy on just about everyone at one time or another.

2. If someone fails at a suicide attempt, he or she will not try again.

Nearly 20% of people who die by suicide have made at least one prior suicide attempt. In fact, individuals that have attempted suicide once are actually at greater risk of trying it again. Any suicidal thoughts or behaviors ought to be regarded as a serious concern. People who are feeling suicidal need immediate support to work toward a resolution. Therapy, sometimes in conjunction with medication, has proven effective in preventing multiple suicide attempts.

3. If someone has resolved to end their life, they cannot be stopped.

Most people thinking about suicide do not want to die; they simply want to end the pain they are experiencing. Even though there are some instances where no one could have predicted a suicide, in most instances, if necessary help and support are given to a person who is willing to accept the help, a tragic result may be prevented. It is possible for people who are suicidal to change their mind; therapy, encouragement, unconditional love, and psychiatric interventions can all help them on their path to recovery.

4. Asking someone if they feel suicidal can encourage suicide attempts.

Having a serious talk about suicide with someone does not create or enhance the risk of death. Talking with someone about their suicidal ideation can actually help lower their risk. The most appropriate way of identifying the possibility of a suicide is to ask directly. Openly discussing and keenly listening to somebody’s thoughts of suicide can give them a source of relief and can be important in getting them help and preventing the immediate risk of suicide.

5. People who talk about suicide do not attempt or complete it.

People who talk about their suicidal thoughts may attempt suicide in the future, so it is essential that you do not dismiss any talk of suicide by others. Most people who die by suicide had confided in somebody in the days or weeks before their death. Listening, offering support, and assisting someone who is suicidal to get immediate professional help can save lives.

Where You Can Get Help

If you have suicidal thoughts, reach out to someone immediately. This can be a trusted friend, family member, religious leader, therapist, or doctor. If you do not have somebody to turn to, you can call the suicide prevention hotline in the United States at 1-800-273-TALK. If you are outside the United States, visit or IASP to get a helpline within your locality. You may also find help at:

  • provides people with warning signs of suicide so you can help prevent others from such an act.
  • allows people to call or chat online with a suicide prevention counselor.
  • offers life-affirming programs to members of the LGBTQ youth community at risk for suicide.

If you feel you are in immediate danger to yourself or others, you can call your local law enforcement agency (dial 911 in the United States) or go the nearest emergency hospital room.

Working with a therapist or counselor is a safe way to face emotional pain or talk about suicidal ideation. You can find a therapist near you by searching online at or calling us at 1-888-563-2112 ext. 1 during business hours.


  1. FastStats: Leading causes of death. (2014, July 14). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved August 20, 2014, from
  2. Key research findings. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Retrieved August 20, 2014, from
  3. McIntosh, J. L., & Drapeau, C. W. (2014). U.S.A. suicide: 2011 official final data. American Association of Suicidology. Retrieved August 18, 2014 from
  4. Suicide facts. Suicide Awareness Voices of Education. Retrieved August 18, 2014, from
  5. Suicide prevention (SUPRE). (n.d.). World Health Organization. Retrieved August 22, 2014, from

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The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • delaney

    August 26th, 2014 at 10:26 AM

    I am often shocked about all of the misconceptions that are out there re: suicide but I think that the one that always surprises me the most is when people say that the person talked about it so that means they won’t do it.
    really? In my experience people tell you and show you what their intentions are, but it is often us who fail to see and listen to what it is that they have to say.
    I would like to believe that they are talking about it so that is a good thing and that that means that they do not intend to do anything to hurt themselves but we all know that they are saying it for a reason, and that is usually so that someone will pay attention and see the trouble that they are in.
    I would not dare ignore this, no matter how casual I thought that the reference could be, because I would be too scared that they actually did mean it and I did nothing to try to stop them.

  • Cathy

    September 6th, 2016 at 6:39 PM

    My husband, a Viet Nam Vet, committed suicide 32 years ago. The doctors and mental health “experts” at the time prior to his death, said that I should ignore him, tell him that’s his decision – do what he wants to do. The VA had no help for me at all. I begged someone to listen to me and help my husband. All to no avail.

  • ALLY

    September 6th, 2016 at 10:51 PM


  • Beverly M

    May 24th, 2017 at 5:59 AM

    I would like to encourage you to know you did all you could have done. Sometimes the pain is just so devastating it takes over. No one is able to prevent the ending of that pain…

  • Cia

    August 26th, 2014 at 4:25 PM

    There are millions of people who are affected worldwide by the loss of a loved one from suicide each year and yet it is something that very few people still wish to talk about. Why is it that this killer is till so taboo? How do we wish to stop the numbers from ever increasing if we are not willing to have a real and thoughtful conversation about what leads to suicide and the things that can be done, should be done, to prevent it?

  • Honore

    August 27th, 2014 at 3:50 AM

    I have tried and tried to understand the reasoning behind suicide but I never can quite wrap my mind around how anyone could ever think that them being gone would ever benefit anyone.

    Is it a self esteem thing, they think so little of themselves that they become convinced that the world will be so much better off without them? I know that it has to go deeper than that, but that is what I always think that it has to start with.

    I do not want to go so far as to say that it is selfish because that is being narrow minded of me to think in my terms and not theirs; but if they could only look beyond what they are feeling in that moment and think of the hurt that will come later on…

  • Jen

    September 3rd, 2014 at 2:57 AM


    There are many reasons one decides to take his or her life, but generally it comes down to wanting to end pain. Sometimes this pain is so intense and never ending that death appears to be the sweet release one is seeking. My stepmom committed suicide in 2002. Her pain stemmed from sexual, physical and mental abuse inflicted on her by her grandfather and uncle after the death of her parents at a young age. I can attest that childhood maltreatment (when it is repetitive, horrid, and received over a long period of time) alters one’s identity and psyche and can be a lifelong mental death sentence. I’ve suffered from PTSD for the past 25 years from my childhood. The mental torture has been horrendous (so I get why she couldn’t take it anymore). It has only been within the last two months that I haven’t fantasized daily about putting a gun to my head to end the pain. I’m on a healthy journey now of learning to love myself and accept myself (the good and the bad) and have compassion for myself. I’m hoping this is a permanent thing, because it feels so much better than constant self-loathing. Some people never get the support to be able to get to that stage and are just tired of the pain. Unless you’ve been in emotional purgatory, you would not understand.

  • Teresa

    September 3rd, 2016 at 4:13 PM

    Thank you for sharing your perspective. I can only imagine the courage it must have taken to try something different. I’m glad you did & I’m so glad you decided to stay!!! Sending light & love for your journey inward..

  • jaime

    September 4th, 2016 at 12:19 PM

    Im sorry for what you have endured I myself lost my dad to suicide last nov a week before thanksgiving. He was a vietnam veteran and my mom witnessed it he shot himself and now she is suffering from ptsd. I have ptsd as well and anxiety but I have a son who is autistic so I try to focus on being strong to get him through life but Im also big in church now and my bible it is where I get my strength. God bless you!

  • ALLY

    September 6th, 2016 at 12:39 AM


  • Anna

    September 7th, 2015 at 4:20 PM

    Be grateful dear that you haven’t suffered enough to consider ending it all.

    Often it’s not just one thing, it’s a number of things over time that just wear you down. Constant harassment, abuse, or depression is really not fun.

    I personally don’t see suucide as selfish. Why should someone not have that option if their life is that bad and it can’t be fixed or people around them don’t care or won’t help enough?

  • Carol

    September 2nd, 2016 at 12:43 PM

    When I tried suicide it was because I could no longer stand the pain. I tried to believe it would cause others pain but I thought my presence in the world made everyone miserable. It was not egoism it was that I thought I was worth nothing. I am so thankful for my family and therapist because I am now so very happy to be alive.

  • Debbie

    January 7th, 2017 at 6:31 PM

    I can tell you that I am convinced that no one would miss me. They would feel sad and thy might even feel bad, that they could have prevented it but they would not miss me. I don’t want to hurt myself but Iv thought about it. When the pain is so bad you Just want to end the pain. When I have been that desperate I truly am not thinking of anyone Even myself I just think about ending the pain.

  • Beverly M

    May 24th, 2017 at 6:11 AM

    In my case , the emotional pain grew with the shame-until it would be unbearable. After brain eletrolisis at Green Oaks in Dallas I first knew what people who didn’t think of suicide daily felt like. So nice and sweet, and lovely.
    Actually the best help, I found was a friend who told me “what’s the hurry?”-wait until tomorrow and then see how you feel…

  • samuel

    August 27th, 2014 at 1:53 PM

    Thank goodness that I have not lost anyone to suicide ever, but I know plenty of peoplw who have and so that truly makes this an issue that crosses all barriers. As a matter of fact I guess that there are no real barriers when it coems to suicide because everyone can be affected by it at any minute.
    To think that one culture or another is immune to it would be devastatingly wrong.

  • G.C.

    August 27th, 2014 at 3:47 PM

    you can’t understand suicide unless you been there

  • Mary G

    August 28th, 2014 at 3:51 AM

    I lost my own father to suicide at a time in this country where it was absolutely shameful to have to admit that this was how someone died.
    We did not talk about it, it was done and then we went on with our lives… I guess.
    I still have so many unanswered questions that both of my parents took to the grave with them that I guess I will never know. That makes me yearn for so much more information that is just not there and never will be for me.
    I am so glad that at least today it is not so taboo, that people are talking about it but in a good way, not the hushed tomes of the past.

  • gerard

    August 28th, 2014 at 10:31 AM

    There seems to be this belief that if you talk about this out loud then this will make someone more prone to going thru with it. This is so untrue. I think that if anything it shows them that someone out there cares for them and wants to help them any way possible.

  • Grant

    August 29th, 2014 at 11:56 AM

    I don’t know if there are always clues when you are in the moment but I am sure that if you go back and talk to families who have experienced this they will look back and see that yes there were some clues but at the time they just didn’t see them.

  • Annabelle

    August 30th, 2014 at 1:56 PM

    Do u think that it would be wise to stress to someone who talks about doing it just how much those they leave behind will hurt if they take this action?
    I think that it is fine to talk to them about the consequences of what others will b feeling if they go thru w this and make them face just what pain they will cause if this is something that they insist on going thru with.

  • clara p.

    August 31st, 2014 at 7:36 AM

    You might want to consider helping the person in trouble away from what is hurting them so much for just a little while. Let him or her come stay with you if they are feeling alone, or take them on a mini vacation just to get away from the scenery that they aer used to every day. Something that can take their minds off of what is bothering them or may even open up a chance to have a real conversation about those things. I think that more than anything they don’t need to be left alone and taking care of them shows them that people do actually care and that they don’t have to feel so alone all of the time.

  • summer

    September 1st, 2014 at 2:59 PM

    I know personally, I will hide it from everyone. My last attempt would have worked until my sister found my empty insulin boxes. I never talked to anyone and nobody knew what I was planning. When the world is empty, the hope is gone. Suicide becomes the only answer. The hope of death is real. I wanted to die, I was done. I am still hoping ever day I wish not to wake up, but I am invincible, so I shall carry on.

  • Support

    September 1st, 2014 at 3:08 PM

    Thank you for your comment, Summer. We wanted to provide links to some resources that may be relevant to you here. We have more information about what to do in a crisis at

    Warm regards,
    The Team

  • Tammy

    September 2nd, 2016 at 11:21 PM

    I was wondering when this would come up. When I made my attempt, I did not tell anyone. I didn’t want to be stopped. I told my husband I was going to bed, took multiples of most of my many meds & went to sleep. When I woke up the next morning, I was sort of hung over. Not dead. He wondered what was wrong since I was wobbly, etc. Apparently the butt load of drugs I took still wasn’t enough. I took it as a sign that I still have things to do. That was almost 10 yrs ago.

  • ALLY

    September 6th, 2016 at 12:47 AM


  • Giselle

    September 8th, 2016 at 11:19 AM

    Summer….I heard your words and I feel the huge weight and sadness and that there may be people that just see you as a drama queen or selfish. I know the pain and struggle Is very real for you tho and that there is a part of you that is so tired of doing the brain work….that you just need to be rescued….listened to…really listened to and loved.
    The hard part is realizing that the ones closest to us seem like the ones most aloof to our desperation and that hurts more than anything….the feeling of worthlessness and downward spiral.
    I have called the crisis line many times and sometimes I am just a number in line and I hear it in the fake attitute….but just sometimes….there is a complete stranger who shows me such kindness and love and is able to restore a shred of hope for me to breath a little.
    I find that my triggers are in the disappointment I feel every time I feel my loved ones turn their back on me in my most desperate moments….so I find it better to not be around them as much because I know that I can’t fall when im around them as I will crumple when they can’t save me.
    If you feel low…then you won’t wanna go out…you probably want to sleep all day and have no energy other than to listen to the constant replays of people “abandoning” you when you most need their most patient loving selves and just feeding your already trapped mind with the repetition of that remembered pain.
    I find that I cannot trust my brain to do the positive thinking for itself yet so I put Louise Hay affirmations on on loop on YouTube and let her do the thinking for me.
    This fixes nothing immediately but it does bring some relief to the hours you are alive and breathing when you think you cant. You DO want to live and have happiness… whatever that may be for you….you just don’t want to live the pain you feel now…but you don’t know how to get there or even feel an inch of motivation from within…..and you know what….that’s ok….that’s where you are at and I may not be your family in blood but I am your family as a human being and I know what power kindness and love can do.
    Reach out to me when you need me…..don’t be angry at those closest that are not offering this right now….they don’t know how to help because they don’t really know how you feel but I do and I’m here….a stranger for now that is holding out their arms and wants to let you feel safe to feel what you need to.
    Facebook Message me Giselle Biz WA
    Reach out…I’m here

  • J.D. S.

    February 23rd, 2015 at 9:46 AM

    I’ll never understand why some people are so wrapped up in the supposed hurt that is “left behind” when someone suicides, as though that’s the most important or relevant issue about the matter. The “left behind” pain is all about the self-centeredness of others, not their interest in nor concern about the person who died. The person who died was the one in the greatest pain, by far – so great it was felt to be intolerable/unendurable any longer!

    A big chunk of the “left behind” pain is the pain of grief that is inevitable whenever someone dies for ANY reason – illness, injury, accident, murder, etc. Those who are “left behind” after ANYONE dies are often angry that they were the ones “left behind” to have to grieve over their loss, rather than theoretically being the “one who left” – the one who is supposedly free from having to grieve anything. Grieving is painful WORK – regardless of the source of its initiation – WORK that most would rather avoid any possible way they can, for entirely selfish reasons.

    Those who suicide generally have been grieving endlessly for months or years, at a time, typically ignored or overlooked by those around them. If the person who suicided had died, instead, in some sort of accident (though felt just as suicidal/distraught/unhappy prior to that accidental death), few would be so hung up about how or why the individual died, in those circumstances. It’s so much easier to “blow off” a more “usual” death, as having less meaning than a death by suicide. It just “happened” so doesn’t require much, if any, reflection concerning its “message”, nor the quality of life of the person who died.

    However, when a self-inflicted death occurs, those who are “left behind” often refuse to discuss the situation as they rightly or wrongly believe they may have contributed to the death. They don’t want to look at their own culpability in the situation, nor do they want anyone else around them to look too closely at their role, either. That’s where so much of the stigma comes from – the assigning of “guilt” and “judgment” by those who may or may not truly know or understand all that was going on, prior to the death.

    Few of those “left behind” want to be forced into reflecting, at length, about how their own actions impact others, especially in negative or harmful ways. So much better, from their perspective, to simply make the entire subject “taboo”. Thus, suicide is one of the most common “family secrets” that are never discussed outside of the home – the classic sign of a dysfunctional family.

  • Michael L

    September 22nd, 2015 at 12:18 PM

    Exactly!!! “Oh, what its going to do to everyone” “Why would you do that to us” “we.we.we……”! Why should i have to worry about what it does to every one else! If im sick, fed up, and tired with dealing with the sh*t going thru my head,…… Dangit!

  • Cathy

    April 9th, 2016 at 8:54 AM

    And what would you say to a women with 2 very young daughters “left behind” who’s husband after an argument took out a hand gun and shot himself in the head right in front of her?? She has every right being “left behind” feeling angry, hurt, confused…not to mention PTSD symptoms!! That husband WAS selfish and wanted to hurt his wife as much as he knew possible. Yes…she did play a role in his suicide and will feel guilty for the rest of her life because of that. Daughters without a father. What would you say to this “LEFT BEHIND” woman that’s still after 32 years suffers that day of that month every year. There ARE suicides that are selfish.

  • Christina

    September 3rd, 2016 at 4:10 AM

    I completely agree with you on this my husband did something similar and yes I later found out that his family skeletons played a part in what happened but 1 fight changed the future for our daughter the 1 person that should have been put before his pain no matter what

  • Teresa

    September 7th, 2015 at 10:01 AM

    I’ve been on both sides of suicide. My husband, a VietNam vet, killed himself. Last year I slit my throat in an attempt. It was a fifth attempt. I have always said that mental illnesses can be fatal and should be viewed as a life threatening illness. People don’t want to get involved. If I had cancer, I’d have people visiting me, giving me rides to the doctor, and cooking and cleaning for me. Mental illness is a REAL illness and we need to change the opinions of people thinking it’s not.

  • Ann Marie

    September 7th, 2015 at 11:23 AM

    I texted a manager/friend at work that I was feeling suicidal and hopeless. The manager told my boss about the text and other texts of feeling helpless and hopeless. I was terminated the following day as I was admitted into a psych ward.

  • Sam

    September 5th, 2016 at 5:53 PM

    I am sorry that happened to you. The former chancellor of UCSC, Denice Denton killed herself. I think it was very sad. She had some pschological issues, I am not sure what, but she was treated for depression. I am not sure if she had depression or bipolar. She was very smart, but did not always have good people skills.

  • Shannon

    September 23rd, 2015 at 9:10 AM

    To Ann Marie,

    I am sorry your boss took that action. I told my boss I was having sucidal urges and she said the next time that happens call me and we will go shopping. Sad thing was I worked at a mental health agency. I told her repeatedly of the urges and confessed to a plan. It took 11 months before I quit and entered the hospital. I wish people would educate themselves on how to appropriately respond to our cries for help.

  • Fiona

    October 1st, 2015 at 2:01 AM

    My ex husband took his life in July. He also tried two days before and a week before when our daughter/15) was staying with him. We also have 18 year old son. I don’t agree with the statement about the selfish people thinking of themselves afterwards. My son is so quiet never speaks of his dad. My daughter is a wreck filled with anger and hatred for me. I’m so sad and yet so angry that he left sole responsibility to me to watch over our children. He has missed out on so much. In the start of September his body had to be exhumed as his(family) buried him in a grave that wasnt theirs. I cannot describe the trauma of that day and to see the upset of our children all over again only much worse as by this stage it had hit home he was really gone. I’m sorry but being someone who myself made an attempt many years ago and yes I do know it is an illness but I can’t help resenting and feeling angry. There is not a day I don’t wake up and he crosses mymind and can’t see that ever changing. I feel so sorry for our kids and pray they can get past it.

  • Mary

    October 1st, 2015 at 8:58 AM

    A few years ago, I was taking a medication that made me suicidal. I was so ashamed of feeling like I wanted to die, I told not one soul. I would cut myself on my arms to see how deep I could go before the pain was too much. I never got too deep, becoming mesmerized by watching my blood drip drip drip all over the floor. I would take naps in the attack in the summer, in the south! I would pray to not wake up. At the time my daughter was 16 and not once did she cross my mind, I was too wrapped up in my misery. I never thought how other people would be affected if I died because I did not care. It was horrible. I hate to think there are people walking around with that kind of pain. Lucky for me, once I quit the medication, I was OK. But for people who feel this way for whatever reason, I feel your pain. I somewhat agree with Michael L and Anna, if someone is that miserable, let them go do what they want to do. I’ve never lost a loved one to suicide. I hope I never do.

  • Michelle F.

    April 10th, 2016 at 9:26 AM

    My beautiful son committed suicide almost 3 months ago. He was a child of only 18 years. I am not in a good place but I can tell you, articles like this are comforting right now. Education & communication will be the difference. A great must read.

  • Carolyn B

    September 2nd, 2016 at 2:34 PM

    If you know someone that has been depressed for a while, then suddenly is happy and carefree, while giving their possessions away, please pay attention. It is also important to ask someone suicidal if they have a plan. I too have been in this place, and for me, the pain I was in was overwhelming and devastating. I was incapable of thinking of anyone or anything. I am so sorry to hear that some have gone through this pain, either as the one who committed suicide, or the one left behind, for how can you say one is worse that the other. They are both devastating!!!

  • Sharon G.

    September 2nd, 2016 at 3:53 PM

    My favorite suicide survival resource comes from the Icarus Project, and is available to print for your friends , family, clients, or self at the following .pdf:
    Hello, Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws is another great resource!


  • Pam J

    September 3rd, 2016 at 9:08 AM

    I have lost three members of my family to suicide. Bipolar disorder runs in the family. The pain of the illness helped me to understand and feel compassion, including for myself. I recently lost my sister, which was devastating. She talked about suicide almost every day for two years. I did everything I knew to help, to the point where I was emotionally exhausted. All three who died also had severe substance abuse issues. It would have been hard under state law or otherwise to make them face the problem. I now think that the prevention of suicide should start with that, as hard as it is. It may involve getting help from a different kind of mental health expert.

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