Suicide myths

Please carefully consider your needs when reading information about suicide. If you need assistance, please contact a crisis service.

Suicide is a complex issue. There are many commonly held myths about suicide that sometimes make it difficult for people to recognise when someone is at risk or when people may need more support.

Myths and misinformation can increase the stigma, shame and guilt experienced by people who are thinking about or have attempted to take their own life.

In addition, it is not easy to understand what compels a person to take their own life, especially for those who have never experienced such overwhelming and negative feelings.

Here are some of the myths and facts to better understand suicide:

Myth

Everyone who engages in suicidal behaviour has a mental illness.

Fact

Thoughts of suicide can happen to anyone, including those who have no history of mental illness. People living with mental illness are, however, at increased risk of suicide.

Myth

Asking someone if they are suicidal puts 'ideas' in their head.

Fact

Experts generally agree that asking is unlikely to make the situation worse. One of the only ways to really know if a person is contemplating suicide is to ask. Asking someone if they are feeling suicidal may seem difficult, but it shows that you care.

Myth

People who talk about suicide are just attention seeking.

Fact

People who talk about suicide are often thinking about taking their own life. Talking about suicide may be a way to indicate they need support so it needs to be taken seriously.

Myth

People who think about suicide are weak or selfish.

Fact

Anyone who thinks about suicide is experiencing intense and overwhelming negative feelings and cannot see any other solution – they need support, not judgement.

Myth

It is impossible to stop suicide.

Fact

Suicide is not inevitable and may be prevented.

Myth

Someone who has attempted suicide will never try again.

Fact

A previous suicide attempt is a recognised risk factor and will increase with each subsequent attempt.