Suicidal thoughts or actions can impact any individual, including children & adolescents. Unfortunately, many myths and misconceptions of suicide exist that can perpetuate risk factors for youth struggling with suicidality.
Myth #1: If someone is displaying signs of suicidal behavior, they are just seeking attention.
Any signs of suicidal behavior require serious support and attention. We know that those who attempt suicide have often previously shown signs that they are struggling and require help. Suicidal thoughts or behaviors are among the most severe signs that a person needs help, and these actions cannot be dismissed as attention-seeking.
Myth #2: Talking to someone about suicide will make it more likely that someone has suicidal thoughts or engages in suicidal behavior.
Many believe that a “contagion” effect exists when it comes to the topic of suicide, especially when talking to adolescents. However, talking about the topic can provide young people with an opportunity for them to discuss any difficult feelings or thoughts that they may be struggling with. It can also help the individual feel less alone and ashamed of anything they might be dealing with. While talking about suicide can be difficult and should be a carefully managed conversation, avoiding the topic altogether is often more detrimental.
Myth #3: If someone has attempted suicide in the past, they won’t attempt it again.
Many think that if someone has attempted suicide in the past, they won’t be likely to make another attempt. However, we know that past suicide attempts are a risk factor for future attempts. It is important that past suicide attempts be taken seriously.
Myth #4: If someone has struggled with suicidal thoughts or behaviors, they will always struggle with suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
While suicidal thoughts or behaviors are difficult to manage and address, effective evidence-based treatments exist for suicidal and self-injuring youth. For example, Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Adolescents (DBT-A) is an evidence-based treatment that has been shown to be effective in reducing thoughts or actions related to suicidality and self-harm. Contacting a psychologist or other mental health clinician can help individuals find appropriate professional support.
Myth #5: There are no warning signs that someone may be thinking about suicide or planning to act on suicidal thoughts.
There are often several signs that someone may be thinking about suicide or planning a suicide attempt. Some of these warning signs may be more obvious, such as talking about wanting to die, talking about feelings of emptiness or hopelessness, or talking about lack of reasons to live. Some less obvious warning signs include becoming socially isolated or withdrawn, giving away treasured personal items to others, or sudden changes in behavior.
If you are concerned that someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or behaviors, helpful resources & hotlines are listed below: