13 Reasons Why … suicide should not be a taboo topic
13. Every year we lose more people to suicide than the number of people who die in traffic accidents. More than twice. Yet, many people do not know how prevalent suicide is until we lose someone close to us. How we respond to and talk about these two risks to life, is very different.
12. Many people having thoughts about suicide do not want to die. They just don’t always know how to stay alive. Sometimes they might feel as though there is no other way out of their pain and distress. When suicide is a taboo topic it can make it harder for them to reach out for help and support.
11. People who have a loved one or friend who they think is at risk of suicide often report that they don’t want to talk to them about it in case they say something wrong. So instead, they might say nothing. If they had more confidence in what to say, they might just be able to connect with a person at risk, and then connect them with professional help.
10. Professional help is not always on hand and so we as friends, family, colleagues and neighbours may be the one who identifies the risk and can then offer support to the person. If suicide is a taboo topic then we are less likely to feel comfortable offering support.
9. Mythology about suicide abounds. Misinformation sometimes affects helping behaviours. For example, a common myth is that ‘those who talk about suicide are not really at risk, it’s the quiet ones you should be worried about’. This is not accurate. People who talk about their risk may be confident in their decision and that no-one can stop them, or they might be communicating their distress and fear that they will have no other option without support, or they may be asking for help because a part of them still wants to live and is hoping they can get through this scary time. Those who don’t talk about it, but have other risk factors, may also be at risk.
8. Another common myth is that if you ask someone about their suicide risk you will put the idea in their head. Again, this is not accurate. If you ask a direct respectful appropriate question you increase the chance of connecting with the person and then being able to connect them with professional help.
7. Another myth is that suicide occurs without any warning. For some there may be no apparent warnings; nothing they’ve experienced that to the outside world demonstrates a risk. However, in many cases there are warning signs, we just may not know what to look for.
6. People often feel shame for their suicidal thoughts which can add to their sense of isolation and distress. If we could talk more clearly about how people sometimes feel this way and that there is help available we might encourage more help-seeking.
5. Loved ones often feel shame for not having helped the person they lost to suicide. They wish they’d known more about how to help, they wish they’d know where to call for advice, they wish they knew more about suicide before losing someone they loved rather than learning all about it afterwards.
4. When someone comes out and tells us they are thinking about or planning suicide we often don’t know how to respond. We might inadvertently dismiss their feelings and try to rush them towards all the reasons we see that they have to live. We don’t know how to hold the space and respect their distress and help them to connect with support. We risk isolating them by not connecting with them and really hearing their distress. This is an understandable reaction – we want them to live. We are scared of their feelings and we want to convince them not to act on them. But sometimes this makes them feel unheard, and they may be less likely to then engage with us in seeking help.
3. Sometimes people will confide in someone they trust that they are thinking of suicide and they make that person swear to keep it a secret. The taboo and secrecy can increase the person’s risk. If you’re not sure how to help, call a support service and they can help you.
2. When someone loses a loved one to suicide we sometimes don’t know how to support them. Again, the taboo might create awkwardness in our desire to reach out and support them.
1. We lose people we love to suicide. That alone should be enough reason to learn all we can to better understand and engage with people at risk and hopefully help them to get support.