World Suicide Prevention Day: Understanding Suicide and Busting Common Myths

Updated: 10 September, 2020 14:06 IST | mid-day online correspondent | Mumbai

This World Suicide Prevention Day, World Health Organization (WHO) debunks common myths associated with suicide

Photo used for representational purposes only.
Photo used for representational purposes only.

World Suicide Prevention Day is observed on September 10 each year to raise awareness about suicide prevention. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), over 138,000 Indians died by suicide in 2019 which puts India’s share at roughly 17 percent of the global tally (800,000). According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the stigma surrounding mental disorders prevents people from seeking help even when treatments are available. Nearly two-thirds of people affected by a known mental disorder do not seek help from a health professional. The stigma has also led to various misconceptions and myths around suicide limiting understanding of the common people. We cannot fight against what we do not understand.  The WHO has listed the following common myths and debunked them with facts:

Myth: If somebody is suicidal, they are going to perpetually stay suicidal

Fact: Amplified suicide risk is usually situation-specific and short term. Even if suicidal thoughts return, they're not permanent. People who have struggled with suicidal ideation and attempts in the past can still go on to live a full life.

Myth: Talking about suicide can be mistaken as encouragement

Fact: The stigma surrounding mental disorders prevents people from seeking help even when treatments are available. Nearly two-thirds of people affected by a known mental disorder do not seek help from a health professional. Having conversations about suicide is the key to combating stigma and preventing suicide. Most people who are struggling with mental illnesses have trouble opening up. Talking openly can enable people to reach out to their peers and seek the help they need.

Myth: Only those who suffer from mental disorders are suicidal

Fact: It is true that suicide is closely interlinked with mental disorders with depression being the single most common illness. However, not everyone who is suicidal has a mental disorder and not everyone with a mental disorder is suicidal. A number of suicides happen due to a breakdown rooted in prolonged financial and emotional stress.

Also Read: World Suicide Prevention Day: One Suicide in Every 40 Seconds. What can we do?

Myth: Most suicides are sudden without any signs of warning

Fact: There isn’t a single reason behind suicide attempts or ideation. Suicidal behaviour most often than not indicates deep unhappiness, which means most suicides are preceded by warning signs. It could be behavioural, such as reckless driving, not caring about one’s appearance, and increased use of drugs or alcohol. Talking about hopelessness or threatening suicide are definite verbal warning signs.  Some suicides aren’t preceded by warning signs but it is imperative that friends and family pay close attention and look out for such changes. Access to timely emotional support is the key to preventing suicide.

Myth: People who are suicidal want to die

Fact: Heightened suicide risk is usually situation-specific and short term. A recent crisis or emotional upheaval might lead to suicide ideation in people but they are often in two minds about dying or living.  Somebody may impulsively take a lot of sleeping pills only to wake up in the hospital and regret taking that step.

Myth: Somebody who talks about suicide is seeking attention and does not really intend to do it

Fact: People suffering from suicidal thoughts often experience anxiety, depression, and hopelessness; they might be reaching out for support or help. Talking about suicide ideation is a warning sign and must not be ignored. We must keep in mind the fact that suicides are preventable with timely interventions and emotional support.

If you or anyone you know is going through a tough time, you can reach out to these 24/7 helplines to seek support. Callers can speak anonymously to professionals and get the help they need.


Fortis Stress Helpline (16 languages)

Vandrevala Foundation
+91-7304599836, +91 7304599837, 18602662345

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First Published: 10 September, 2020 13:39 IST

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