Debunking the Myth: Talking about suicide leads to suicide.
Trigger Warning: Suicide
I remember the first time one of my close friends attempted suicide, I was a teenager. My friend had been suffering from an untreated mental illness for so long. I first noticed the signs from a Facebook post. I had questioned them about it with no response; that is when I knew that something was wrong. I ran to my mother who was a mental health professional and asked her what I should do. She told me to contact the police to perform a wellness check.
I contacted this individual’s siblings to inform them of my concerns, and if these concerns weren’t addressed, then I would call the police. The individual’s sibling went to check on them and found them unresponsive and they were rushed to the hospital. There, I was a scared and confused teenager. All I knew was that this was way beyond my high school education. I did not know how to react in this situation. I just knew that my friend needed a friend. I went to visit this individual every day at the hospital. I just let this person know that I was there for them as much as I could be. This individual went on to be treated professionally and received the help that they needed.
This wouldn’t be my last encounter with suicide attempts, but I have learned how to handle them better. When a family member learns of their loved one’s suicide attempt, the majority of them feel afraid, hopeless, or like a failure. Although, these feelings are valid, it is best to deal with these emotions with a therapist, to prevent those feelings from being projected onto the person that is hurting and confused. We live in a society where we take suicide attempts personally. We have all heard phrases like:
“Why would you do this? Didn’t you think how this would hurt the family?”
“Why didn’t you say anything?”
“Are you doing this for attention?”
I personally feel like the last one is the worst. Instead of personalizing an individual’s suicide attempt, we should learn how to better support them. We’ve all heard the motto of “talking about suicide makes someone suicidal.” That is an inaccurate statement. I would rephrase the statement to say that “talking about suicide could prevent suicide.” There is a difference between passive suicidal ideation without intent and active suicidal ideation. Passive suicidal ideation is simply wishing to die without intent and/or plan. Active suicidal ideation is wanting to kill yourself and having a plan.
If a friend, loved one, or spouse chooses to reach out to you, be sure to be there for that individual and listen. If you feel compelled, reach out to law enforcement or drive them to the ER to ensure safety. Suicide should be taken seriously. Be sure to engage in active listening and to be supportive.
If you need more resources please be sure to check out https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org or make an appointment with a trained professional.