Southwest Counseling Debunks Suicide Myths

Written by: Delaney Wells, CPS
Southwest Counseling Debunks Suicide Myths

Suicide in Wyoming and Sweetwater County has been on a steady rise.

While suicide is not a new problem, we are finding new ways to approach the stigmas surrounding suicide.

Recent reports from the suicide prevention “Disaster Distress Helpline” have noted that in 2019, over 4,701 calls were made to the lifeline. So far the lifeline has reported 2,314 calls made in 2020 from January to September.

Questions and statements such as the ones listed above are barriers to how suicide is currently being approached. During the age of COVID-19, we are still being shown that suicide rates have been an even larger issue that ever before. Across the United States elevated health conditions, substance use, and suicidal ideation have shown a rise in prevalence since the beginning of 2020.

The Centers for Disease Control reported that in June 2020, 40% of adults struggled with mental health or substance abuse. Additionally, 31% had reported feeling anxious and depressed, while 11% of the population seriously considered suicide as an option.

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“Asking someone if they are suicidal will make them want to die by suicide.”

“Speaking openly about suicide will make someone want to pursue it.”

The problem that we are facing in how prevention measures are being taken, is how we educate ourselves. The quotations above are all myths, but think about an interaction that you may have had where someone has said something similar.

Did you know how to respond? It’s okay to not know the “appropriate” way to respond, but you can be appropriate in taking suicide seriously by educating yourself to help prevent misinformation and stigma.

Here are the truths behind the myths listed above and other debunked myths:

Evidence shows asking someone if they’re suicidal can protect them. They feel listened to, and hopefully less trapped. Their feelings are validated, and they know that somebody cares about them. Reaching out can save a life. (Rory O’Connor, Professor of Health Psychology at Glasgow University)

Having a conversation about suicide does not encourage people to take their own lives. By speaking openly about the subject we have the opportunity to educate or peers, family, and friends. Talking about suicide can also show individuals contemplating suicide that someone is there to listen and help them feel heard. By talking about suicide you are also able to check in on those closest to you and help them seek help.

“If I attempt suicide my guns are going to be taken away.”

Title 25 (Wyoming State Statute 25-10-109) states that “Emergency detention is the legal process in which a police officer or examiner, defined as an individual who is licensed as a psychiatrist, physician, advanced practitioner nurse, physician’s assistant, psychologist, professional counselor, addictions therapist, clinical social worker, or marriage or family therapist, detains a person who is reasonably thought to be a danger to themselves, others, or who is unable to meet basic needs, as a result of mental illness.” The clause also states that there must be substantial evidence that there is a threat of harm to themselves, others, or an inability to meet their own basic needs due to mental illness. The clause protects gun owners from having firearms seized. In other circumstances officers of the law suggest that a family member or friend who is allowed to carry firearms holds on to any firearms while an individual may be in custody or at a facility.

You can find more answers to your “Title 25” questions on the Wyoming Department of Health webpage HERE.

“People who are suicidal want to die.”

Just because someone says they are suicidal does not mean they want to die. There is a misconception about those who desire to die by suicide and that they will do whatever it takes to take their own life. It is not useless to reach out to someone that you know who is contemplating suicide. When someone states that they are suicidal it is often a sign of communication that they want to get help. With successful intervention and connection to proper resources an individual struggling with suicidal thoughts will have a stronger will to live.

“Suicide only really happens in the winter.”

Suicide is not specific to winter. While winter months do show that depression rates are higher seasonally, depression is not the only contributing factor to suicide. People who are contemplating suicide may be feeling depressed but they may also be experiencing other emotional triggers, life events, health concerns, social conflicts, trauma, and environmental stress. Statistically, the time of year where suicide rates are among the highest is in the spring. Even though there is no consistent reason as to why spring time yields the highest rates assumptions still are not able to be made linking suicide rates to specific seasons.

“People who say they are thinking about suicide, don’t really want to they just want attention.”

When someone confronts you about having thoughts of suicide, you should treat the situation seriously. In no circumstance should threatening a life be joked about. In a situation where someone claims they are thinking about suicide you may be able to help by talking to them. It might feel like a really heavy responsibility to feel like you need to talk someone down, but that is not what you are doing. What you are doing is helping someone feel and be heard. From here you can persuade the individual to seek help and refer them to a proper channel (counseling, telehealth, lifelines, physicians, etc.).

“If I call a suicide prevention hotline, people who I don’t want knowing are going to find out.”

While some people may be more open about receiving help and care for suicidal ideation, others may not be. The benefit of the suicide prevention hotline (and other call lines) is that you are able to share as much or as little as you seem fitting. For someone contemplating suicide it may be to the benefit of the individual to share information in order to pursue seeking care. Names and personal information will not be shared by the lifeline that is being contacted. As a caller your rights and information are protected under HIPAA. The staff members that answers calls are specifically trained and follow precautions to protect caller information.

Individually we can all make a difference in helping educate ourselves about the truths behind suicide misconceptions. Check in frequently with friends, family, classmates, and co-workers.

Any life worth taking is a life that matters. Help link those in need with resources.

  • 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)
  • 1-800-985-5990 (or text TalkWithUs to 66756)
  • Vets4Warriors: 1-855-838-8255
  • In Crisis/ Text 741741
  • Southwest Counseling Service offers a Crisis Hotline after office hours at (307)-352-6677

Southwest Counseling Service also offers free Medication lock boxes, Pill bottle locks, and Gun locks.

For additional information on suicide or how to access community resources contact the Southwest Counseling Service Prevention team at (307) 352-6677 and ask for Delaney or Shelby.

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