We asked our regional health care agencies what the biggest myths and misconceptions are concerning suicide throughout the region. Here are their responses:
• Dr. Anthony Ragusea, of Evangelical: “I often get this response: ‘If someone talks about suicide, they don’t mean it and are just joking or looking for attention.’
“You should always take these situations seriously. People who start talking about suicide like this are more likely to act in risky ways — more likely to start doing things that take them closer to those goals.
“Take any talk about suicide seriously.”
• Dr. Justin Coffey, of Geisinger: “There is no evidence that genuinely talking with someone about suicide will put ideas in their head and increase the likelihood they act on those.
“You need to show you care, and you do that by honest, genuine conversation without dancing around things or dealing with gray areas.”
• Ragusea: “People say to me that if someone wants to die, there is not much you can do to help. This is completely untrue.
“Most people will feel suicidal during brief periods of time. If you can get them through those periods of high risk, they’ll probably be OK afterward.”
• Ragusea: “Another myth people believe is that if you take away the means someone plans to use to kill themselves, they’ll just find another way.
“However, those in these states typically look for the easiest way for it to happen. When that is taken away, they tend to give up.”
• Ragusea: “People also think that if you can get someone who is suicidal to promise not to kill themselves — even to sign some sort of contract — it will reduce the chances they follow through.
“However, these systems typically don’t really count for much. It is better to help the person identify reasons for living and then to identify coping options they have, such as people they can talk with, situations to avoid and ways to feel better while going through a crisis.”
• Ragusea: “People think that if they acknowledge thoughts about suicide out loud, that mental health professionals will lock them up. That is not the case.
“We talk to people all the time about suicide, and the bar for involuntary hospitalization is pretty high. It has to be an imminent threat to health that would require us to involuntarily hospitalize an individual.”