Suicide Ideation: 5 Myth-Busting Facts

AnnMarie Churchill

suicide ideation, suicidal thoughts, mental health, well-being, help

Do you feel uncomfortable discussing the topic of suicide? Do you worry that broaching the topic will make matters worse – possibly incite suicide thoughts or actions? Many people still believe the myth that asking questions about suicide thoughts or plans will give a distressed person the idea of suicide. This mistaken belief often causes people to avoid the issue altogether.

In fact, talking about suicide can reduce stigma and provide opportunities to assist. Here are 5 facts about suicide ideation:

FACT 1

Suicide ideation – meaning the idea or thought of suicide – is not the same as suicide intent.

It is not uncommon for people going through difficult life events to experience thoughts related to ending their life. Although persistent suicidal thoughts are a risk factor for suicide, many people who experience them never make a suicide attempt.

FACT 2

Suicidal thoughts can be a symptom of mental illnesses like depression.

However, not all people who think about suicide are mentally ill. Although addictions and mental illness are risk factors, suicide ideation can occur in the absence of mental illness when events in an individual’s life overwhelm their coping resources or abilities. Difficult life transitions, loss, or trauma can create a sense of desperation that leads to suicide ideation.

FACT 3

Contemplating or attempting suicide does not mean a person wants to die.

It is common for people who feel suicidal to report not so much wanting to die, but rather wanting to end their emotional pain and overwhelming stress. At a person’s darkest hour, it can seem as if suicide is the only option available to relieve their pain. This type of tunnel vision creates a psychic block to the awareness of other options and resources.

FACT 4

Asking about suicide will not plant the idea of it.

Instead, asking will provide an opportunity to discuss the issue and provide support. In fact, suicidal thinking and risk often decrease when people get a chance to talk about the issue, exploring alternatives and perspectives with a non-judgemental and caring person. Many people experiencing suicide ideation are looking for a reason to live.

FACT 5

Suicide thoughts and threats should be taken seriously.

They are indicators of distress, hopelessness and possibly mental illness. Individuals who talk about ending their life are experiencing serious emotional pain and some do go on to attempt or complete suicide. If you or someone you know is experiencing reoccurring thoughts of suicide, it is important to seek help. Contacting a crisis helpline or mental health professional will help identify issues underlying the suicide ideation, which can bring clarity and possibility to what may seem like an impossible situation.

Searching for a solution to a problem or escape from what feels like intolerable pain is what the human mind is programmed to do. Thoughts of suicide can arise naturally when a person feels trapped, overwhelmed, and disconnected. An open discussion and nonjudgemental approach to the topic of suicide can help relieve distress, uncover resources, and rekindle hope.


For more FREE RESOURCES on this topic and others, visit our free resources page.

Author: AnnMarie Churchill (PhD, RSW)
Trainer, Crisis & Trauma Resource Institute

AnnMarie is the co-author of CTRI’s book, Counselling Insights: Practical Strategies for Helping Others with Anxiety, Trauma, Grief, and More. The book is available on our website.

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