Written By Real Kevin Jay on Thursday, September 11, 2014 | 8:49 AM
Individuals and organizations around the world are observing World Suicide Prevention Day Wednesday to raise awareness on the issue of suicides and how to prevent them.
According to a recent World Health Organization (WHO) global report on suicide prevention, a suicide takes places every 40 seconds worldwide and more than 800,000 people take their lives every year.
“Given the widespread stigma around suicide, many individuals who are contemplating suicide do not know who to speak to,” said the report. “Experts say that rather than encouraging suicidal behaviour, talking openly can give an individual other options or the time to rethink his/her decision, thereby preventing suicide.”
Although suicide is known as a social phenomenon, many misconceptions still exist regarding individuals with suicidal behaviour.
Here’s a look at common myths and misconceptions regarding suicide.
Myth: An individual who commits suicide is only seeking attention
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), for some, these behaviours are serious invitations to others to help them live. If help is not available, they may feel it will never come.
Experts say that ignoring suicidal thoughts or actions can be dangerous. Helping someone talk about their problems and suicidal thoughts can be effective in reducing suicidal behaviours.
Myth: People who think about killing themselves do not ask for help
WHO states that stigma, particularly surrounding mental disorders and suicide, means “many people thinking of taking their own life or who have attempted suicide are not seeking help and are therefore not getting the help they need.”
“The prevention of suicide has not been adequately addressed due to a lack of awareness of suicide as a major public health problem and the taboo in many societies to openly discuss it,” said a report from WHO.
To date, only a few countries have included suicide prevention among their health priorities and only 28 countries report having a national suicide prevention strategy. Canada does not currently have an official federal framework for suicide prevention.
“Raising community awareness and breaking down the taboo is important for countries to make progress in preventing suicide.”
Myth: Once someone is suicidal, he or she will always remain suicidal
WHO says heightened suicide risk is often short-term and situation-specific. While suicidal thoughts may return, they are not permanent and an individual with previously suicidal thoughts and attempts can go on to live a long life.
Myth: Talking about suicide may give someone the idea
Talking about suicide does not create or increase risk. The best way to identify the intention of suicide is to ask directly, according to CMHA.
Open talk and genuine concern is a source of release, and one of the key elements in preventing the immediate risk of suicide.
Myth: Only those with mental health illnesses and disorders are suicidal
While there is a link between suicide and mental health disorders, many suicides happen impulsively “in moments of crisis with a breakdown in the ability to deal with life stresses, such as financial problems, relationship break-up or chronic pain and illness.”
“Suicidal behaviour indicates deep unhappiness but not necessarily mental disorder,” said WHO. “Many people living with mental disorders are not affected by suicidal behaviour and not all people who take their own lives have a mental disorder.”
Myth: Suicides aren’t preventable
A number of measures can be taken to prevent suicide and suicide attempts. According to WHO, some of these include:
Early identification, treatment and care of people with mental and substance use disorders, chronic pain and acute emotional distress
Training of non-specialized health workers in the assessment and management of suicidal behaviour
Follow-up care for people who attempted suicide and provision of community support
Reporting by media in a responsible way
Introducing alcohol policies to reduce the harmful use of alcohol
Myth: People who are young never think about suicide
Suicide continues to be the second leading cause of death among ten to 24-year-olds in Canada, according to Children’s Mental Health Ontario (CMHO). For every young person who has died by suicide, there are thousands more having thoughts of suicide and attempting suicide.
A recent study by CMHO found that one in ten Ontario students in grades 7 through 12 reported that they had seriously considered suicide, while three per cent reported attempting suicide.
Suicide among Aboriginal youth is estimated to occur at rates five times higher than non-Aboriginal youth.