The biggest obstacles in the prevention of suicides are rooted in ignorance. We tend not to speak about suicide or, when we do, we use a system of prejudices - so suicidal people are often perceived as cowards and weak people, sinners, manipulators etc. Such social labeling (stigmatization) further causes feelings of shame, fear and guilt in suicidal persons, which is blocking them to ask for help openly. Social labeling affects not only those who are suicidal, but all who have mental health problems.
There is a need for change in public attitudes and increased awareness of the problem and that it can be prevented.
The following are the most common prejudices about suicide:
If someone was suicidal once, will remain suicidal forever.
False. People who want to kill themselves are suicidal only for a limited period of time.
If someone once tried to commit suicide, it is less likely he/she will try again.
False. About 80% of all completed suicides occurred after previous attempts.
If people are serious about killing themselves, nothing will stop them.
False. Ambivalence (not being certain about life and death) is common for suicidal people. Many of them do not want to die but simply want to escape from the intolerable situation from which they see no other way out.
It is a bad idea to ask whether a person is thinking about suicide. By doing this you could give him/her an idea to think in that direction.
False. People often think that it is safer not to talk about suicide with someone who is considering this option (or you suspect that is thinking about doing it). On the contrary, a conversation can help a suicidal person to handle difficult feelings and reduce the unbearable tension. Willingness to listen is sending the message that we care and that we want to help.
People who talk about suicide would never move from words to actions because it is their way to manipulate other people. Those who commit suicide usually do not talk about it, they just do it.
False. Most people who committed or attempted suicide have given directly or indirectly hint to their environment that they were considering suicide as an option. No need to blame yourself if you have not noticed these signs, or if you are worried about someone you know, you can get information about what you can do to help.
If a depressed or suicidal person feels better, it means that the problem is gone.
False. If someone who was depressed or suicidal suddenly appears to be in a better mood, this does not mean that the danger has passed. The person who has decided to take his/her own life can have a sense of relief because the decision has been made. Also, sometimes it happens that after the first improvement from depression and regained energy people finally gather strength and commit suicide.