Myths About Suicide

suicide prevention

What you need to know about a leading killer in America

Globally, more than 800,000 take their own lives each year. About 40,000 people in America commit suicide each year, and prevalence has been growing since 2000. It is now the 10th leading causing of death in America, yet there still persists a lack of understanding about the nature of suicidal people and how to prevent these tragedies.

Suicide Statistics

  • The highest suicide rate by age is 45-64. Next is 85+.
  • Suicide rates are 4 times higher for men than women.
  • White people commit suicide much more often than other ethnicities.
  • The Western United States has higher suicide rates than the East.
  • Firearms are the most common method for suicide, then suffocation, followed by poisoning.
  • In 2012 almost 500,000 people went to the hospital for self-harm.
  • 18 percent of undergraduate college students have seriously considered attempting suicide.

Sources: Suicide Prevention Resource Center, AFSP, WHO

Here are some prevalent myths:

Only people with mental disorders are suicidal.

Suicide comes about when a person is deeply unhappy. Mental disorders are a contributor to some suicides, but are in no way the only cause.

Most suicides happen without warning.

Some do happen without warning, but most are preceded by some kind of verbal or behavioral indication.

Suicidal people are determined to die.

Suicidal people are often ambivalent about living or dying. Getting emotional help at the right time can save a life. Many suicides happen because a person acts impulsively, not because a desire to die is constant.

There come times in a person’s life when suicide is much more likely to happen. Heightened suicide risk is often short-term and specific to a situation, according to the World Health Organization. Suicidal thoughts can return, but are not permanent.

Talking about suicide is a bad idea.

There is a stigma attached to suicide, and because of this, people contemplating suicide often don’t know who to speak to. Talking about suicidal thoughts can open other options for people, and can give time for people to rethink decisions. You can prevent suicide by talking about it.

Studies show that it is especially important for frequent and personal contact after someone has attempted suicide.

Learn about the AFSP Out of Darkness Walks, which spread awareness about suicide:

Warning signs of suicide:

If a person talks about:
• Killing themselves
• Having no reason to live
• Being a burden to others
• Feeling trapped
• Unbearable pain

Be wary of new or increased behavior related to an event, loss or change.

• Increased use of alcohol/drugs
• Acting recklessly
• Withdrawing from activities
• Isolating from family and friends
• Sleeping too much or too little
• Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
• Giving away prized possessions
• Aggression

Source: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (

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