Suicide Myths vs Facts

“In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

George Orwell

Suicide is a taboo and often misunderstood subject. It is also a deeply painful topic for those whose lives it has touched; we find ourselves reluctant to talk about it. Consequently, there are a number of myths or false perceptions about suicide that continue to persist. 

If you are an ally of someone who is struggling with suicide, separating myth from fact is the first step toward helping your friend or loved one. The organization Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE) clarifies some common and significant misconceptions, or myths, regarding suicide:

Myth 1:

People who talk about suicide won’t really do it. They just want attention.


According to research, roughly 80% of people who died of suicide do or say something as an indicator or warning sign of what their intentions are. Never ignore suicide threats. Statements like, “You’ll be sorry when I’m dead,” or “I can’t see any way out,” — no matter how casually or jokingly said, may indicate serious suicidal feelings.

Myth 2:

If someone has decided to kill themselves, nothing will stop them. 


Even the most severely depressed person has mixed feelings about death, wavering until the very last moment between wanting to live and wanting to die. Most suicidal people do not want death; they want the pain to stop. The impulse to end it all, however overpowering, does not last forever.

Myth 3:

Talking about suicide may encourage the idea. 


You do not give a suicidal person morbid ideas by talking about suicide. The opposite is true. ringing up the subject of suicide and discussing it openly is one of the most helpful things you can do and has been proven to be a protective factor for preventing suicide.

Myth 4:

People who die by suicide were unwilling to seek help.


Studies of suicide victims have shown that more than half sought medical help within six months before their deaths. Many try to get the help they need, but sometimes it isn’t enough. Sometimes it isn’t the right help. And other times their illness makes them fail to follow through with their treatment plans.

Spotting a Cry for Help

Many years ago when I started my depression peer support groups, I asked people to write a vision statement describing what their life would be like if they were free from depression and anxiety. One day a woman named Barbara came in with her vision statement which was quite nicely done. After I read it, she asked me to look on the other side of the page. When I turned the page over I saw that she had written a suicide note. I could have interpreted this as Barbara joking around, as I knew she was quite clever. However, not wanting to take chances, I asked her to call her psychiatrist who then decided to have her hospitalized. It turned out that Barbara’s act of putting her suicide note on the back of her vision statement was her way of reaching out for help. It got my attention and saved her life.


Learning both the facts and the myths about suicide will help you more quickly spot the warning signs in someone you care about. Once you spot these warning signs, you can reach out to them and help connect them to the resources they need.