There is a lot of information and misinformation surrounding the issues of suicide. Suicide awareness groups are trying to reach the public with the proper information about suicide. Below is a list of facts and fables about suicide, according to Bill Blackburn, author of What You Should Know About Suicide, p.44-47:
Fable: People who talk about suicide won’t do it.
Fact: It is estimated that about 80% of persons who take their lives have given signals about their intentions. Suicide threats should always be taken seriously.
Fable: Mentioning suicide may give the person the idea.
Fact: For a person who is considering suicide, having someone to talk the idea out with can be a powerful preventive. If the person has not thought about suicide but is obviously anxious or depressed, to talk about suicide not being a good option can be a preventive measure. You can assume, though, that most depressed or very anxious persons have given some thought to taking their lives.
Fable: Suicide occurs without warning.
Fact: Suicide is the result of a process that in retrospect can be traced back sometimes for years. Almost always the suicidal person plans how he will take his life and then gives clues to his intentions.
Fable: All suicidal persons are mentally ill.
Fact: Although the suicidal person may be unhappy, anxious, and upset, not all persons who take their lives could be diagnosed as mentally ill.
Fable: The tendency toward suicide is inherited.
Fact: There is no firm evidence that the propensity toward suicide is passed down genetically. The phenomenon sometimes seen of suicide “running in a family” seems to be due to learned behavior rather than inherited tendencies.
Fable: Once people are suicidal, they always will be, and they are beyond help.
Fact: The suicidal crisis is generally of a brief duration and if intervention and therapy occur, the person may never again seriously contemplate suicide. It is true, however, that about 10% of the persons who attempt suicide eventually take their lives. (A clarification may need to be made here. Of all people who attempt suicide, only complete suicide. On the other hand, of all people who complete suicide, about 45% had previously attempted suicide.)
Fable: Suicidal persons are completely committed to dying.
Fact: The dominant feeling of most suicidal persons is ambivalence. They want to die, but they also want to live.
Fable: It is not a suicide if there is no note.
Fact: Only about 1/3 of the persons who take their lives leave a suicide note.
Fable: When depression lifts, the suicide crisis is over.
Fact: The greatest danger of suicide is in the first three months following a deep depression. The happiness and peace of mind exhibited by some persons as they come out of a depression actually results from the fact that they have finally “resolved” their crisis by deciding to take their lives.
Fable: The poor and the rich are the most likely to destroy themselves.
Fact: Suicide crosses all socioeconomic boundaries, and no one group has a proportionately higher incidence than another.
Fable: People who are alcoholics do not usually commit suicide.
Fact: There is a very high correlation between alcoholism and suicide, with an estimated 1/5th of all alcoholics ending their lives by suicide. Many people who are not alcoholics drink heavily prior to killing themselves.
Fable: Suicidal people do not seek out medical help.
Fact: Several studies have indicated that as many as 75% of persons who take their lives visited a physician within three months prior to the suicide.
Fable: Professional people do not commit suicide.
Fact: There are high suicide rates among physicians, dentists, pharmacists and lawyers. Contrary to another fable, dentist do not have the highest suicide rate among professionals.
Fable: December had the highest suicide rate of any month.
Fact: December has the lowest rate. April and May have the highest rate.
Fable: Suicide is the unpardonable sin.
Fact: Though this has been taught by various groups within the church, it is based on the notion that sins have to be forgiven prior to death or be expressed to people before death. The unpardonable sin, though, is the refusal to yield to the convicting work of the Holy Spirit which leads to salvation. So in essence, the unpardonable sin is the refusal of the gift of salvation.
Even with all the facts and fables we still need to have the knowledge to intervene in the area of suicide. Suicide awareness needs to be part of our culture.