Debunking Myths Around Suicide

Just like any other social issue, prevention work needs to start with a thorough understanding of the issue. Unfortunately, conversations around suicide tend to be heavily stigmatised, writes Priti Sridhar

Almost every suicide is a death that can be avoided. And for every death that happens by suicide, there are about 60 people who are impacted due to the loss of a loved one, and more than 20 who attempt suicide. In India, 1,64,033 people died by suicide in 2021, accounting for 24 to 37 per cent of the global deaths by suicide. In spite of these numbers, there is limited conversation on suicide prevention in India. 

Just like any other social issue, prevention work needs to start with a thorough understanding of the issue. Unfortunately, conversations around suicide tend to be heavily stigmatised. Based on the findings of ‘Suicide Prevention: Changing the Narrative’ (2021), a study conducted by Mariwala Health Initiative, here are some myths around suicide and suicidal ideation that we must stop believing in:

Myth: Someone who is suicidal is determined to die

Fact: On the contrary, suicidal people are often ambivalent about living or dying. Suicidal thoughts are usually short-term and in response to a stressful situation. Access to emotional support at the right time can prevent suicide.

Myth: Only people with mental disorders are suicidal

Fact: Suicidal thoughts and actions indicate deep unhappiness but not necessarily mental disorders. Many people living with mental disorders are not affected by suicidal thoughts, and not all people who take their own lives have a mental disorder.

Myth: Most suicides happen suddenly without warning

Fact: The majority of suicides have been preceded by warning signs, whether verbal or behavioural. Of course, there are some suicides that occur without warning, but it is important to understand what the warning signs are and look out for them.

Myth: People who talk about suicide do not mean to do it

Fact: People who talk about suicide may be reaching out for help or support. A significant number of people contemplating suicide are experiencing feelings of hopelessness, despair, and anxiety, and may believe that there is no other option.

Myth: Once someone is suicidal, they will always remain suicidal

Fact: Heightened suicide risk is often short term and situation specific. While thoughts of suicide may return, they are not permanent and an individual with previously suicidal ideations and attempts can go on to live a long life.

Myth: Talking about suicide is a bad idea and can be interpreted as encouragement

Fact: Given the widespread stigma around suicide, most people who are contemplating suicide do not know whom to speak to. Rather than encouraging acts of self-harm, talking openly can give an individual other options, or the time to rethink their decision, thereby preventing suicide.

Suicide is a difficult issue to talk about. But talking about it openly is a key step in preventing it.


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