Talking about suicide is often considered taboo. It’s one of those touchy topics that nobody wants to mention because it’s too sensitive and most people don't know enough to talk about it. Unfortunately, these conversations come up when we hear that someone has died by suicide to which we ask, “What did they lack?” “Why didn’t they talk it out?” “Was that the only option?” and to which we say “They seemed so happy” and “They had everything!” “I wish I knew they were struggling” “Check on your friends.”
Let’s start here. Suicide is a complex matter and each case is different. People end their lives for various reasons. It’s not always because they had a mental illness or that they were unhappy although those are some leading causes. Suicide prevention is not as easy as, “Check on your friends” but more like creating safe spaces for our loved ones and colleagues to feel comfortable enough to express their struggles at any point in their lives. We shouldn't have to talk about suicide when it’s too late - it should be an ongoing conversation - one that’s open and free of shame and judgment.
What is Suicide?
When someone ends their life through an intentional action of self-harm - that is suicide. Self-harm is purposely inflicting pain on oneself through cutting with sharp objects, medication, chemicals, burns, punches, or harmful behavior like reckless driving.
When someone self-harms but doesn’t die - that is a suicide attempt.
Suicide is not a criminal offense. For someone to end their life, they probably feel like it’s the last resort there is - an end to their suffering or problems. We can’t fault people for thinking that way especially when they’ve exhausted all avenues of solutions. This is why we shouldn’t use the term “committing suicide” because it insinuates that suicide is a crime or sin which further perpetuates the stigma surrounding it. Use terms like "death by suicide" "died by suicide" or "lost their lives to suicide." How we talk about suicide matters and we should be compassionate and careful not to use insensitive language that prevents people from seeking help.
When referring to a suicide attempt, avoid saying “successful/unsuccessful suicide” or “completed/failed suicide”. Suicide attempts are not aimed at them being “successful” because that implies a good result. Instead, use: survived a suicide attempt, lived through a suicide attempt, fatal suicidal behavior/non-fatal suicidal behavior fatal suicide attempt/ non-fatal suicide attempt.
Who is most at risk of Suicide?
Anyone can die by suicide even the happiest and most successful among us. Suicide affects everyone no matter where they’re from or who they are. Some factors put people more at risk of suicide and suicide attempts like:
Extreme stress from work, finances, relationships, addiction, and substance abuse.
Mental health struggles and illnesses like major depression, psychosis, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
A family history of suicide, suicidal attempts, suicidal thoughts, or mental illnesses.
Abuse: physical, mental, emotional, and sexual. Continued bullying, harassment, discrimination, and violence.
Self-harming behavior such as cutting, burning, and over-medicating.
Serving prison time or captivity of any kind like kidnapping.
Terminal chronic diseases like advanced cancer or heart disease.
Exposure to media or information that glorifies suicide.
Important Questions You May Have About Suicide
Does talking about suicide encourage or lead to suicide? No, it doesn’t. Talking about it allows people to be honest about how they’re feeling, seek help or treatment, share their stories, rethink their options, or be open to alternative thoughts and perspectives about their situations. You shouldn't be afraid to start a conversation; it could be the one that saves someone.
If someone is suicidal, will they have suicidal thoughts forever? No. A person isn’t doomed to have suicidal thoughts for the rest of their lives if they’ve considered it at some point. With therapy and treatment, one can manage and reduce the symptoms of suicidal ideation if they are at a high risk of suicide. Also, for most people, suicidal thoughts are temporary and caused by specific situations in their lives which can be resolved. Suicidal thoughts are not permanent.
Is talking about suicide attention-seeking? Some people can talk about the desire to end their lives in a joking manner but it should be taken seriously. It’s not attention-seeking to cry for help no matter how many times they do it. Any talk about suicide should lead to a conversation about why they feel that way and what you can do to help them. If you or someone you know has suicidal thoughts or more questions about suicide, please reach out to us immediately at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us Tel: 786-490-5988. Suicide is preventable and you should never feel like it’s the end of the road for you. There is hope to continue living and we are here to professionally guide you through this crisis of thought or feeling. You are not alone.