The myths and realities of youth and suicide

The Canadian Mental Health Association provides information about suicide online, including a whole section about youth and suicide.

The Canadian Mental Health Association provides a lot of information about suicide online at www.cmha.ca, including a whole section about youth and suicide.

Included in the information are some myths about suicide:

Myth: Young people rarely think about suicide.

Reality: Teens and suicide are more closely linked than adults might expect. In a survey of 15,000 Grade 7 to 12 students in British Columbia, 34 per cent knew of someone who had attempted or died by suicide; 16 per cent had seriously considered suicide; 14 per cent had made a suicide plan; seven per cent had made an attempt and two per cent had required medical attention due to an attempt.

Myth: Talking about suicide will give a young person the idea, or permission, to consider suicide as a solution to their problems.

Reality: Talking calmly about suicide, without showing fear or making judgments, can bring relief to someone who is feeling terribly isolated. A willingness to listen shows sincere concern; encouraging someone to speak about their suicidal feelings can reduce the risk of an attempt.

Myth: Suicide is sudden and unpredictable.

Reality: Suicide is most often a process, not an event. Eight out of 10 people who die by suicide gave some, or even many, indications of their intentions.

Myth: Suicidal youth are only seeking attention or trying to manipulate others.

Reality: Efforts to manipulate or grab attention are always a cause for concern. It is difficult to determine if a youth is at risk of suicide. All suicide threats must be taken seriously.

Myth: Suicidal people are determined to die.

Reality: Suicidal youth are in pain. They don’t necessarily want to die; they want their pain to end. If their ability to cope is stretched to the limit, or if problems occur together with a mental illness, it can seem that death is the only way to make the pain stop.

Myth: A suicidal person will always be at risk.

Reality: Most people feel suicidal at some time in their lives. The overwhelming desire to escape from pain can be relieved when the problem or pressure is relieved. Learning effective coping techniques to deal with stressful situations can help.

— Canadian Mental Health Association

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