The Myths of Suicide

The Myths of Suicide
By Thomas Joiner, PhD
January 19, 2011

Completely Revised by The Secret Keeper on 10.12.12

Myths about suicide abound in the therapeutic setting. Why People Die by Suicide involves a fight against ancient, ingrained, and powerful self-preservation instincts. In Myths About Suicide, I contend that death by suicide is neither impulsive, cowardly, vengeful, controlling, nor selfish.

Impulsivity myths
It is a fallacy that suicide is an impulsive and momentary whim. A reporter committed suicide right on the air. She extracted a gun from beneath her desk and shot herself behind the right ear. She was rushed to a local hospital, but died 14 hours later.
The usual reaction to this tragic tale beyond shock and horror was to dwell on the seemingly impulsive nature of the act. The reporter’s behavior leading up to her suicide dispels the idea that she acted impulsively:

•She openly told her family for years that she felt depressed and suicidal

• Four years before her death, she attempted suicide by overdose and frequently discussed the incident after making these attempts.

• Weeks before she died, the news station granted her request to cover a story on suicide; and during one interview, she asked a police officer for details on self-inflicted gunshot wounds

• One week before her suicide, she told a colleague that she had bought a gun and joked with him about killing herself on the air

• On the day of her suicide, she had put the gun in a bag that she brought to the set daily. She may have done this before this day, also.

•Lastly, she had prepared news copy for a fellow reporter to read about her suicide after the fact.
The news reporter’s death illustrates that her suicide was premeditated. To consider her death impulsive leads to why the decision at that moment precisely when to pull out the gun, instead of focusing on the many factors that led up to that planned moment.

In the book An Unquiet Mind, Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison discusses her own experience with suicidal behavior and describes how it actually works: “. . . for many months I went to the 8th floor of the stairwell of the UCLA hospital and, repeatedly, only just resisted throwing myself off the ledge. . . .” Contemplating suicide is a signature of serious suicidal behavior. Jamison’s months-long thought process and behaviors counter the notion of spontaneous death by suicide.

Suicide note myths
Leaving or not leaving a suicide note. No study has reported a rate of note leaving among suicide decedents to exceed 50%. A reasonable average rate would be approximately 25%.
Why are suicide notes so rare. Suicidal persons often kill themselves before they have a chance to write a note. The relative rarity of suicide notes reveals the state of mind of those about to die by suicide. To say that persons who die by suicide are lonely at the time of their deaths is a massive understatement. Loneliness, combined with alienation, isolation, rejection, and ostracism, is a better approximation. Notes are rare because most decedents feel alienated to the point that communication through a note seems pointless or does not occur to them at all.

Diagnostic myths
Friends and family who have been surprised by a suicide and often consider it to be deeply selfish. This is understandable because the bereaved are often convinced that the decedent did not consider the impact of his or her death on those left behind. However, those who die by suicide certainly do consider the impact of their deaths on others; but to them, death is a positive rather than a negative outcome. It is the view of the person who attempts suicide.

Seasonal myths
Another common myth that death by suicide peaks around the winter holidays. Far from peaking, the winter holidays represents a low point in suicide rates, because it is a time of togetherness.
Universities offer many social, cultural, academic, athletic, and other events—many of them free of charge. There is a high level of belonging inherent in these events, Suicide rates of college students are relatively low compared with their same-aged peers not at college.
In summer activities continue but ebb considerably. A sense of belonging is lower during the summer. Suicidal ideation are higher in the summer months explained by the fluctuations in opportunities for socializing.

Slow suicide myths
A person engages in unhealthy behaviors despite knowing that these behaviors may ultimately lead to death. Genuine suicidal behavior involves a rather clear intent to die, not to do something else like smoking or taking drugs because they like it. Smoking as a slow suicide, People know smoking puts them at risk, but they smoke anyway—not because they intend to die—but because they like it. Addicts continue to use drugs even though they understand that continued use might kill them; but because they like “doing” drugs, the risks do not matter.

Therapeutic implications
In therapy, there are marked warning signs: one is talking about suicide and planning for it, clinically severe agitation, insomnia, and nightmares. A patient’s fearlessness of death, perceived to be a burden on others, and accelerating alienation increased risk.

Myths About Suicide concludes:
We need to understand that suicide is not easy, painless, cowardly, selfish, vengeful, or rash; It is not caused by “slow” methods like smoking, doing drugs, anorexia, genetic or influenced by mental disorders, Is it preventable or treatable. When we understand this we can feel compassion for those who feel suicidal or those who succeed at committing suicide.

Think Before You Say Something

This is Jade. What has happened to her? She committed suicide three days after this video was made. Jade`s video is here to spread her message. STOP THE BULLYING. IT IS ANTI-BULLYING MONTH IN OCTOBER

Teenage suicide accounts for 31,000 suicides a year in the U.S., the 3rd leading cause of death.
Worldwide nearly a million people commit suicide every year. More than those murdered or killed in war.

Think before you say something hurtful to someone else. It may look like they’re ok but they’re not. Words are more powerful than you think.

3 thoughts on “The Myths of Suicide

  1. “Suicide is a form of murder-premeditated murder. It isn’t something you do the first time you think of doing it. It takes getting used to. And you need the means, the opportunity, the motive. A successful suicide demands good organisation and a cool head, both of which are usually incompatible with the suicidal state of mind.” ~ Susanna Kaysen ~ Girl, Interrupted


  2. Oh my … bravery & heart are the badges you carry oh secret keeper, and your ability to paint this perspective with such poignancy & shading, well … it is a gift. I have worn this box, and now it is like recalling an old film, while smelling something burning. There is such shadowed beauty in your honesty, such bravery in your awareness. Much, much love …


    • Thank you. for your words of support. there seems to be something familiar in them for you. going inside of the depth of what i feel inside is my way of finding the truth. facing the dark side is the only way to find release from the pain it can cause. your words are so poetic in their form that trying to respond leaves me wanting to find words as meaningful. your awareness is so close to what i feel. feeling your gift of love, i feel honoured. honesty is the only way i know how to be. jennifer


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