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Does Asking About Suicide Increase the Risk for Suicide?

Many people think that asking someone if they’re having thoughts of suicide will “plant” the idea in their head – but this couldn’t be further from the truth!

While this is a common myth, the opposite may actually be true. Talking about suicide is hard for most people, and you might feel awkward asking the question – just know that by asking the question you can help make it easier for the person experiencing suicidal thoughts to talk about it. Having that conversation is an important first step to getting that person help. 

Unfortunately, still a lot of stigma around mental health in general, but especially when it comes to suicide. The idea that bringing up the topic of suicide will plant the idea in their head is a form of suicide stigma. Some other examples of suicide stigmas include:

  • People who kill themselves are “cowards” or “selfish”
  • Suicidal people are fully intent on dying – no one can do anything to stop them
  • Everyone who dies by suicide is depressed or has some other mental health condition
  • Someone who was suicidal suddenly getting better after a suicide attempt or a depressive episode means the suicide risk is over

As a result of suicide stigmas, many people struggling with suicidal thoughts may feel ashamed or worry that others think they’re just weak or only seeking attention. Suicide stigmas also prevent people who could help someone who is suicidal from recognizing risk and stepping in to get that person help. In short, suicide stigmas do not promote a healthy recovery and can actually worsen a person’s mental health

In short, suicide isn’t a “bad word” that we should tiptoe around. It can be intimidating to talk about, but talking about it is so important. The best way to get more comfortable asking about suicide is to practice, practice, practice! 

Try practicing in front of a mirror or with a friend. You can ask using direct questions like, “Are you thinking about suicide?” or “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” If asking directly feels too overwhelming, use indirect questions like, “Do you wish you could go to sleep and never wake up?” If the person answers “yes,” tell a trusted adult so you can get them the help they need

Text HOME to 741741, Crisis Text Line or call 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Helpful Resources

    • Pledge to Be StigmaFree The StigmaFree campaign is NAMI’s effort to end stigma and create hope for those affected by mental illness. Through powerful words and actions, we can shift the social and systemic barriers for those living with mental health conditions.
      • Take the StigmaFree Quiz Record your answers to the questions and learn about the results to see if you are affected by stigma. 
  • To Write Love On Her Arms To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) is an American nonprofit organization that aims to present hope for people struggling with addiction, depression, self-injury and thoughts of suicide, while also investing in treatment and recovery. TWLOHA encourages people to have honest conversations about mental health and seeks to connect people to treatment centers, websites, books, support groups, helplines, and other resources. 
  • Stamp Out Stigma Stamp Out Stigma is an initiative spearheaded by the Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness (ABHW) to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness and substance use disorders. This campaign challenges each of us to transform the dialogue on mental health and addiction from a whisper to a conversation. 
  • Make It OK Make It OK is a campaign to reduce the stigma of mental illnesses. The organizations listed here have pledged their commitment to change the hearts and minds about the misperceptions of mental illnesses by encouraging open conversations and education on the topic.

 

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