Apparently a fair few of us Australians actually believe this (reasonably silly) myth. According to the survey undertaken by Suicide Prevention Australia in the lead up to World Suicide Prevention Day this year, a third of the people surveyed agreed with the statement – people who talk about killing themselves rarely suicide.
Existing evidence shows us that most people communicate with a health professional directly about their suicidality, or convey indirectly their desire or intent to die, in the three months prior to death. Some research has indicated that as many as 60-80% of those who suicide had communicated their intentions before they died. Very few people who attempt to take their own life have not communicated in some way with those around them or exhibited some warning signs.
Talking about suicide is always a warning sign. All warning signs should be taken seriously and listened to. Anyone who is talking about suicide is in pain and they may be reaching out for help and support.
In addition, a previous suicide attempt is one of the strongest predictors that a person will die by suicide. Talking about thoughts of suicide, and a history of suicide attempts, are two of the most important factors that clinicians will take into account when assessing a person’s risk.
We can all do our part to prevent the tragedy of suicide by remembering that the above statement is complete bollocks. And if in fact, someone close to us is talking of suicide, we don’t ignore this warning sign. We can start conversations. We can reassure them that we care. We can do what we can to help. It might just make a bit of difference.
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