There are certain folk sayings or common knowledge surrounding the topic of suicide. Many of them are literally “whistling past the graveyard.” Here are some of those myths, along with some explanations of why they need to be debunked.
“People who say they're going to commit suicide never do.”
The truth is that, while not all people who say that they're going to kill themselves will make the attempt, some will. How can you be certain which category the person you're talking about falls into? Simply stated, you can't be. Doctors can't predict with certainty, and neither can you. Take every suicide threat seriously.
At the very least, the threat is an indication that the person in question needs help with certain issues. Better to be on the safe side than regret your failure to act.
“If you mention suicide to someone who's depressed, you'll put the idea in his head.”
If someone is seriously depressed, the idea of suicide has already occurred. By talking about it openly, you initiate a conversation that can help lead to effective treatment. There is a sense of isolation that accompanies suicidal thoughts, and your compassion and concern can be an important step in breaking down those boundaries.
“It's her own business. You should stay out of it.”
It's difficult to see how someone could be so cool about the potential loss of life. Suicide may be a personal decision, but it's a personal decision with a ripple effect that spreads far beyond the act itself, reaching across time and space to torment friends and loved ones left behind.
By the same measure, if you reach out to help, you're helping not only the suicidal person; you're helping the family and friends of that person, as well.
“He's bound to kill himself anyway, so what's the point in trying to stop him?”
Nobody's got a crystal ball that accurately foretells the future. Perhaps your friend's medication is causing the problem, and a dosage adjustment will fix it. Perhaps he's just waiting for someone to step in and take over, for a bit, to see that he gets help. No one can know for sure what another person will do at any given time.
If you suspect a friend or loved one is about to commit suicide, don't wait. Call 911, take the person to the emergency room, call the doctor, do whatever it takes to stop the act, and be right at that person's side. You may not get another chance.
“She's just looking for attention.”
This is quite possible. The problem is real, however. Someone who would consider suicide as the only option for gaining attention needs help. This sort of last resort thinking indicates this person feels she has exhausted all her other options. It's a desperation move.
“He's plain nuts. You've got to be crazy to try to kill yourself.”
No. You don't. You just have to hurt so much that death seems to be the only option to release you from the pain. This is not the time for name-calling or shunning. This is the time for an intervention — getting this person to help, before it's too late.