5 Common Myths About Suicide Debunked

SEP. 30, 2020

By Kristen Fuller, M.D.


Suicide affects all people. Within the past year, about 41,000 individuals died by suicide, 1.3 million adults have attempted suicide, 2.7 million adults have had a plan to attempt suicide and 9.3 million adults have had suicidal thoughts. 

Unfortunately, our society often paints suicide the way they would a prison sentence—a permanent situation that brands an individual. However, suicidal ideation is not a brand or a label, it is a sign that an individual is suffering deeply and must seek treatment. And it is falsehoods like these that can prevent people from getting the help they need to get better.

Debunking the common myths associated with suicide can help society realize the importance of helping others seek treatment and show individuals the importance of addressing their mental health challenges. 

Here are some of the most common myths and facts about suicide.

Myth: Suicide only affects individuals with a mental health condition.

Fact: Many individuals with mental illness are not affected by suicidal thoughts and not all people who attempt or die by suicide have mental illness. Relationship problems and other life stressors such as criminal/legal matters, persecution, eviction/loss of home, death of a loved one, a devastating or debilitating illness, trauma, sexual abuse, rejection, and recent or impending crises are also associated with suicidal thoughts and attempts.

Myth: Once an individual is suicidal, he or she will always remain suicidal.

Fact: Active suicidal ideation is often short-term and situation-specific. Studies have shown that approximately 54% of individuals who have died by suicide did not have a diagnosable mental health disorder. And for those with mental illness, the proper treatment can help to reduce symptoms. 

The act of suicide is often an attempt to control deep, painful emotions and thoughts an individual is experiencing. Once these thoughts dissipate, so will the suicidal ideation. While suicidal thoughts can return, they are not permanent. An individual with suicidal thoughts and attempts can live a long, successful life. 

Myth: Most suicides happen suddenly without warning.

Fact: Warning signs—verbally or behaviorally—precede most suicides. Therefore, it’s important to learn and understand the warnings signs associated with suicide. Many individuals who are suicidal may only show warning signs to those closest to them. These loved ones may not recognize what’s going on, which is how it may seem like the suicide was sudden or without warning.

Myth: People who die by suicide are selfish and take the easy way out.

Fact: Typically, people do not die by suicide because they do not want to live—people die by suicide because they want to end their suffering. These individuals are suffering so deeply that they feel helpless and hopeless. Individuals who experience suicidal ideations do not do so by choice. They are not simply, “thinking of themselves,” but rather they are going through a very serious mental health symptom due to either mental illness or a difficult life situation.   

Myth: Talking about suicide will lead to and encourage suicide.

Fact: There is a widespread stigma associated with suicide and as a result, many people are afraid to speak about it. Talking about suicide not only reduces the stigma, but also allows individuals to seek help, rethink their opinions and share their story with others. We all need to talk more about suicide. 

Debunking these common myths about suicide can hopefully allow individuals to look at suicide from a different angle—one of understanding and compassion for an individual who is internally struggling. Maybe they are struggling with a mental illness or maybe they are under extreme pressure and do not have healthy coping skills or a strong support system. 

As a society, we should not be afraid to speak up about suicide, to speak up about mental illness or to seek out treatment for an individual who is in need. Eliminating the stigma starts by understanding why suicide occurs and advocating for mental health awareness within our communities. There are suicide hotlines, mental health support groups, online community resources and many mental health professionals who can help any individual who is struggling with unhealthy thoughts and emotions. 


Kristen Fuller M.D. is a family medicine physician with a passion for mental health. She spends her days writing content for a well-known mental health and eating disorder treatment facility, treating patients in the Emergency Room and managing an outdoor women's blog. To read more of Dr. Fuller's work visit her Psychology Today blog and her outdoor blog, GoldenStateofMinds.


We’re always accepting submissions to the NAMI Blog! We feature the latest research, stories of recovery, ways to end stigma and strategies for living well with mental illness. Most importantly: We feature your voices

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SEP, 27, 2018 03:16:33 PM
Audrey Albert
I have been there, not once but 4 times. Each was at different points in my life where it felt that dying was the only way out. I made it and even have worked on suicide crisis help lines. I now have a husband and step-son that have bipolar disorder, one manic, one depressive. Each form has periods of suicidal bouts of depression. I found that getting them to talk about it is the best way to move away from the feelings. It is difficult for all of us! I know we aren't the only ones, but when you are in that despare, you sure think you are!

SEP, 27, 2018 01:50:49 AM
james cornick
Thank you for your enlightenment. Having a son end his life, I thought I knew all about suicie, yet your document expanded my knowledge base. Keep up keeping on.

SEP, 26, 2018 06:35:37 PM
I am going through this now. I have been diagnosed with C-PTSD. Five years now. My PTSD has been there for many years but I did not realize it until it burst into major PTSD (2013) coupled with a physical illness that went unchecked for 2 1/2 years. No one believed I was ill until I went to the ER with flu/bronchitis and begged them to look at my stomach. They did. I physically began to heal after gallbladder surgery and being taken off diuretics. The C-PTSD that remains is unbearable and I am trying. My "big" trauma happened over 40 years ago. Before there was DNA testing. Before PTSD was a "thing." I am on the fence here as my only family member can't deal with this. If you have anyone who has been traumatized, PLEASE talk about it. PLEASE do something to keep that person on the right path while they heal. PLEASE know that traumatized people need validation and loving support. Please don't ever turn away from someone who is that traumatized, shut down, frozen, isolated, abusing substances, enraged, etc. GET HELP! I didn't have that back then. Thanks for this.

SEP, 26, 2018 04:16:12 PM
Alice Worcester
Anna Bowen stresses that she is "a true suicide survivor - not a family member of a person who committed suicide, but one who survived my suicide attempt." Judgemental tone bothers me because my sister repeatedly makes attempts. Her children, grandchildren, husband, stepchildren, sisters, elderly mother and all those who "help" including helicopter staff, the ER and all hospital personnel who had contact with my sister are involved in saving a life. Suicide is sometimes thought of as "selfish" and it might be. Many times we do not consider anyone else. Let's try to think of how our actions DO touch the lives of many.

SEP, 17, 2018 10:58:38 PM
Patty Cop
Great article. Very informative. Brings a lot

SEP, 13, 2018 01:42:31 PM
Anna Bowen
I'm a true "suicide survivor" - not a family member of a person who committed suicide, but one who survived my suicide attempt. I didn't leave a note, and there were no outward signs. I would have died but for a friend discovering me before I stopped breathing. The point I want to make here is - when my pain started to heal, I stopped wanting to die. When the suffering was dissipated, I began to see the good in life again. There is hope.

SEP, 13, 2018 12:15:02 PM
Francisca Montano
Well written Dr. Fuller. I wish to wtite about vicarious trauma that Social workers are experiencing...so much that we, I consider suicide due to lack of hope during this hopeless selfish administration.

SEP, 10, 2018 07:33:12 PM
Lizanne Corbit
Conversations about suicide can be some of the most difficult but when myths go on as fact it can make those conversations even harder to approach. I think debunking these myths is so important because it takes away some damaging assumptions that many people have. As always, thank you for being such a positively impactful voice in the community.

SEP, 10, 2018 03:34:17 PM
Loran Harris
Thank you great educational informative article. Will be referring people to it.

SEP, 10, 2018 03:32:39 PM
Loran Harris
Thank you so much for this article. So many times after giving speeches folks ask about Mental Health issues, and I don't have the time to answer them all>Some of the discussions really need more time than what I have been given. So these types of articles are so important. If someone asks, I give them the Nami.org, along with all the other information I have and can provide. Thanks again. Good article! And very accurate... …

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We’re always accepting submissions to the NAMI Blog! We feature the latest research, stories of recovery, ways to end stigma and strategies for living well with mental illness. Most importantly: We feature your voices.

Check out our Submission Guidelines for more information.