I have a bit of trouble with this myth. I think it's because it's just so far from the facts and I'm not quite sure where it comes from.
Australian studies show that nearly 80% of people had seen their General Practitioner in the three months before they took their own lives, and 90% had seen some sort of health professional. Again, people who want to end their lives feel that there’s no other option open to them, and have usually struggled for a long time with their pain. It doesn't mean that they haven't tried to seek support for this pain. On the contrary, they have often tried many a things to assist relieve the pain.
There are many characteristics that place a person at higher risk for suicide – depression, substance use, a prior suicide attempt – another really, really important one is recent discharge from a psychiatric hospital.
I know that this may be difficult information to receive, but a review of research has shown that in the week following discharge from a psychiatric hospital, people are at a dramatically high risk for suicide. One study found that women were 246 times more likely than would be expected – and men were 102 times more likely – to die by suicide in that crucial week. Chances of suicide remain markedly high for at least a month following discharge from a psychiatric hospital.
This does not mean that the person was discharged from hospital in error. Nor does it mean that the treatment was not worthwhile. But what it does show us, is that suicidal thoughts and intent is not something that is easily “cured”. Suicidal thoughts and intent is fluid. It can be somewhat impossible to predict from one moment to the next, let alone day to day. And it can require long-term intensive follow-up treatment. Of course, whatever led to hospitalization in the first place, whether a suicide attempt, mental illness, or some other crisis, places a person at higher risk than normal for suicide, and that risk factor will also still be there.
Clinicians and mental health professionals are well aware of this truth. We know that people who do suicide are engaged in our services and are at increased risk when they discharge from our residential services. So we make sure that we do all we can to ensure good aftercare procedures are in place.
It can take time for suicidal thoughts and intent to dissipate in an individual. Much more than one visit to a GP or a mental health professional or one visit to a hospital. For people with pain that leads to suicidal thoughts and intent, surviving can require so much effort, so much passion, so much time, and so much help and support - to hold on tight to life in such a profound and conscious way.
As always, talking and learning about suicide is so important but it can bring up some really tough emotions. Please take care of yourself and reach out to a trusted family member, friend or one of the suggested crisis lines below if you need to talk about how you’re feeling.
Lifeline 13 11 14 www.lifeline.org.au/gethelp
Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au
Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 www.kidshelp.com.au
MensLine 1300 78 99 78 www.mensline.org.au