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Suicidal Thoughts (cont.)

Suicide Myths

Myth: Discussing suicide might encourage it.

Fact: Many people worry about this, but there is no evidence to support this fear. It is important to speak openly about suicide, both to get help if you have suicidal thoughts, and to ask about suicidal thoughts in those close to you. Without open discussions about suicide, those suffering may continue to feel isolated, and are less likely to get the help they need.

Myth: The only people who are suicidal are those who have mental disorders.

Fact: Suicidal thoughts and actions indicate extreme distress and often hopelessness and unhappiness. While this may be part of a mental disorder, it isn't always. Many people with mental illness never have suicidal behavior, and not all people who commit suicide have a mental illness.

Myth: Suicidal thoughts never go away.

Fact: Increased thoughts or risk for suicide can come and go as situations and symptoms vary. Suicidal thoughts may return, but are not permanent, and suicide is not inevitable.

Myth: A suicidal person is determined to end his or her life.

Fact: People who have survived suicide attempts often state that they didn't want to die but rather didn't want to keep living with the suffering they were feeling. They are often ambivalent about living or dying. After an attempt, some people clearly indicate that they want to live on, and most people who survive an attempt do not end up ending their lives later. Access to help at the right time can prevent suicide.

Myth: There is no warning for most suicides.

Fact: When looking back, most people who committed suicide showed some signs in the things that they said or did in the weeks before. Some suicides may be impulsive and not planned out, but the signs of depression, anxiety, or substance abuse were present. It is important to understand what the warning signs are and look out for them.

Myth: Individuals who discuss suicide won't really do it.

Fact: People who talk about suicide may be reaching out for help or support. Most people aren't comfortable talking about suicide, so they might bring it up in a joking or offhand way. However, any mention of suicide should be taken seriously and viewed as an opportunity to help. Most people contemplating suicide are experiencing depression, anxiety, and hopelessness but may not have any support or treatment.

Myth: Suicide attempts are just a "cry for help" or a way to get attention.

Fact: Suicide attempts, even "minor" ones that don't require serious medical attention, are a sign of extreme distress. Suicide attempts should be taken seriously and are a reason to assess and treat any ongoing mental-health issues.

For More Information on Suicide

Suicide hotlines:

  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
    • Free, 24-hour hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress
    • Military veterans suicide hotline (press 1)
    • Suicide hotline in Spanish (press 2)
  • Teens can get text support from the crisis text line by texting "listen" to 741-741
  • LGBT Youth Suicide Hotline: 1-866-4-U-TREVOR
  • For local suicide hotlines, check this directory:

Information and resources:

Medically reviewed by Marina Katz, MD; American Board of Psychiatry & Neurology


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Copeland, W.E., D. Wolke, A. Angold, and E.J. Costello. "Adult psychiatric outcomes of bullying and being bullied by peers in childhood and adolescence." JAMA Psychiatry 70.4 (2013):419-426.

Crosby, A.E., B. Han, L.A.G. Ortega, S.E. Parks, and J. Gfoerer. "Suicidal thoughts and behaviors among adults aged ≥18 years -- United States, 2008-2009." MMWR Surveillance Summaries 60.SS-13 (2011). <>.

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Kann, L., S. Kinchen, S.L. Shanklin, et al. "Youth risk behavior surveillance -- United States, 2013." MMWR Surveillance Summaries 63.4 (2014). <>.

Karch, D.L., J. Logan, and N. Patel. "Surveillance for Violent Deaths -- National Violent Death Reporting System, 16 States, 2008." MMWR Surveillance Summaries 60.10 (2011). <>.

LeFevre, M.L. "Screening for Suicide Risk in Adolescents, Adults, and Older Adults in Primary Care: U.S. Preventative Services Task Force Recommendation Statement." Ann Intern Med 160 (2014): 719-726.

Lineberry, T.W. "Seven Clinical Pearls for Suicide Risk Assessment." The Carlat Psychiatry Report. <>.

Linehan, M.M., et al. "Two-year randomized controlled trial and follow-up of dialectical behavior therapy vs. therapy by experts for suicidal behaviors and borderline personality disorder." Arch Gen Psychiatry 63.7 July 2006: 757-766.

Mann, J.J. "Neurobiology of suicidal behaviour." Nat Rev Neurosci 4.10 Oct. 2003: 819-828.

Miller, M., and D. Hemenway. "Guns and suicide in the United States." N Engl J Med 359.10 Sept. 4, 2008: 989-901.

Miller, M., M. Warren, D. Hemenway, and D. Azrael. "Firearms and suicide in U.S. cities." Inj Prev Dec. 3, 2013.

Molnar, B., L. Berkman, and S. Buka. "Psychopathology, childhood sexual abuse, and other childhood adversities: Relative links to subsequent suicidal behavior in the U.S. Psychological Medicine." 31.6 (2001): 965-977.

National Violent Death Reporting System. <>.

Niederkrotenthaler, T., J.E. Logan, D.L. Karch, and A. Crosby. "Characteristics of U.S. Suicide Decedents in 2005-2010 Who Had Received Mental Health Treatment." Psych Services 65 (2014): 387-390.

Pandey, G.N. "Biological basis of suicide and suicidal behavior." Bipolar Disorders 15 (2013): 524-541.

Perez-Fuentes, G., M. Olfson, L. Villegas, C. Morcillo, S. Wang, and C. Blanco. "Prevalence and correlates of child sexual abuse: A national study." Comprehensive Psychiatry 54.1 (2013): 16-27.

Saunders, K., F. Brand, K. Lascelles, and K. Hawton. "The sad truth about the SADPERSONS Scale: an evaluation of its clinical utility in self-harm patients." Emerg Med J (2013).

Shea, S.C. The Practical Art of Suicide Assessment: A Guide for Mental Health Professionals and Substance Abuse Counselors. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, 2002.

Simon, R.I. "Gun safety management with patients at risk for suicide." Suicide Life Threat Behav 37.5 Oct. 2007: 518-526.

Steck, N., M. Egger, M. Maessen, T. Reisch, and M. Zwahlen. "Euthanasia and assisted suicide in selected European countries and U.S. states: systematic literature review." Med Care 51.10 Oct. 2013: 938-944.

"State-by-State Guide to Physician-Assisted Suicide." Apr. 17, 2014. <>.

Switzerland. World Health Organization. "Global Health Observatory: Mental Health." <>.

Switzerland. World Health Organization. "Preventing Suicide: A Global Imperative: Myths." <>.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "CDC finds suicide rates among middle-aged adults increased from 1999-2010." May 2, 2013. <>.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/12/2016
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