Around one million people commit suicide every year. This topic, still a big taboo in our society, is commonly neglected of attention and for this reason it is often referred to as the “silent epidemic”. That is why the Yellow September awareness campaign on suicide prevention was created. The first preventive measure? Education.
There are many myths about suicide, and it is important to differentiate them from reality:
Myth 1: Anyone who tries or commits suicide always has a mental disorder
Perhaps the most common myth, there is the idea that suicide is necessarily a symptom of a mental disorder. There are cases of (attempted) suicide where no disorder was detected.
Myth 2: Suicide is always impulsive and without warning
Suicide can be considered for some time. Many suicidal people communicate some sort of verbal or behavioral message about intentions to harm themselves. Believe it or not, 81% of people who attempt suicide communicate their intentions on how and when they plan to commit suicide.
Myth 3: Suicidal people really want to die and are determined
Most people who feel suicidal share their thoughts with at least one person, or call 911 or a doctor. This can show ambivalence rather than certainty about ending one's life.
Myth 4: Whoever talks about suicide just wants to get attention
There is a belief that people who talk about this subject will not harm themselves, because they just want attention. Most people who commit suicide talk or give signs of their ideas. That's why threats should be taken very seriously.
Myth 5: Suicide only happens to certain types of people
The reality is that it happens to all types of people and is found in all social, cultural and family systems.
Myth 6: Children don't commit suicide
There is a myth that children are cognitively incapable of performing a suicidal act. Unfortunately, though rarely, children commit suicide. So any gesture at any age should be taken very seriously.
Myth 7: Talking about suicide can increase the risk of people attempting it.
On the contrary. Discussing the subject can lessen the anguish and tension these thoughts bring to people. To hear an account of a teenage suicide survivor and the importance of talking about it, click here: https://www.youtube. com/watch?v=sRo5Db_7yVI&t=5s
Once some misconceptions are demystified, what warning signs should we pay attention to?
History of previous attempts
This is the main risk factor for suicide and can increase the likelihood of another attempt by 5x.
The disorders most commonly associated with suicide are mood disorders such as depression and bipolar. Other disorders associated with suicide are disorders related to the use of legal or illegal drugs, schizophrenia, and personality disorders. The more diagnoses, the greater the risk.
Comments that show despair, hopelessness, or helplessness, such as "I wish I was never born" or "I'd rather be dead." For some people, death can be seen as “a means of finding rest” or of “ending pain/sadness”.
Chronic and recent stressors
High-stress events such as divorce, migration, loss of a close person, or bankruptcy are associated with the emergence of suicidal thoughts.
Even when planned, suicide often arises from an act motivated by negative intentions. The impulse is usually transient, lasting a few minutes or hours. This can be accentuated when there is substance abuse.
Organizing details and saying goodbyes
Farewell messages, wills, donation of important possessions, accumulation of pills, or unusual calls to relatives or friends for the purpose of saying goodbye.
Affordable means for suicide
Access to firearms, high places, and copious amounts of medication increases the likelihood that an attempt will be made.
Are you or someone you know showing any of these warning signs? See a health professional urgently.
For urgent situations, use one of the resources below:
133: Zelfmoord preventie
On the 133 website there is a lot of information about suicide and prevention, and they also have an online chat. In addition, emergency phone numbers are available in Dutch and English.
SOS Voz Amiga
213 544 545
912 802 669
963 524 660
Suicide prevention and helplines in Portugal are available free of charge and daily from 15:30 to 00:30.