Facts and Myths about Suicide

black telephone handset suspended by a red rope noose

'Behaviour that is self destructive which has intent to seriously damage one's self or to cause death.'

The above definition may surprise some people who think that suicide is an overtly self destructive act such as a drug overdose or hanging. However, many suicidal people choose more covert means to achieve their desire.

Consider the teenage boy who continues to drive way too fast whilst intoxicated, despite previous accidents, or the regular ‘accidental’ overdose of prescribed medication by a lonely aged widow, whose children have left home. It is a fact that self poisoning over the age of six years old, is rarely accidental. There are many other examples of sub-intentional suicide such as self mutilation, eating disorders and risky sexual behaviour. These need to be seen for what they are, desperate cries for help that are not being answered.

Death by suicide has decreased over the last few years, according to statistical suicide registration, however; “in each of the years from 1994 -2004, the total number of deaths from suicide was greater than the number of deaths from transport accidents.” ( It also accounts for a larger percentage of deaths from all causes in specific age groups. Of registered suicide deaths, 80 % were male and generally between 25-40 years of age. It should be noted, however, that more girls under 25 years attempt suicide than boys but male rates of completed suicides are several times higher than females at all ages.

There are many myths about suicide, here are some of the most common:

People who talk about suicide don't actually do it.


Many who complete the act of suicide spend considerable time prior to the act, talking about it.


All suicidal people are crazy.


Most individuals who suicide do not have an identified mental illness.


Talking about suicide with a depressed or suicidal person may cause them to do end their life.


By giving the suicidal person permission to discuss their feelings, they are made aware that somebody cares about their life.


Only certain types of people commit suicide.


Suicidal thoughts and actions can affect anyone from any socio-economic group, religious or racial background or age.


Suicidal people want to die.


Suicidal people just want to end the intense emotional and/or physical pain that they are experiencing.


Some of the warning signs of suicide:

  • Any talk about, threats of or joking about suicide
  • Expressions of hopelessness and excessive self criticism
  • Making final arrangements, giving away possessions
  • Sudden mood swings or frequent crying
  • Loss of interest in hobbies, sports work or school
  • Inability to concentrate or make decisions
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Increased or decreased appetite
  • Increased use of drugs and alcohol
  • Noticeable behaviour changes such as increased risk taking, promiscuity, indifference or impulsiveness

These are only some of the warning signs and it is noted that not everyone with these signs may be suicidal. However, anyone presenting more than a couple of these signs, should be questioned as to their suicidal intentions.

So what can anyone do to stop a suicidal person actually carry out the thought to completion?

In order to let go of the idea of suicide as a solution to their pain and hopelessness, the suicidal person needs to see some positive and concrete changes happening in their lives.

They need to feel supported, cared for and valued and the proposed changes must be viable and able to meet their needs. This may appear an overwhelming task to the family or partners of a suicidal person but there is also a lot of professional support available to help. Indeed, the more support networks that are involved then the higher the chance of making changes and reducing future risk factors.

In addition to individual counselling for the suicidal person, consider involving some of these suggested sources:

  • Teachers
  • Ministers
  • School Counsellors
  • Hospitals
  • Peer Support
  • Friends
  • Relatives

Crisis Lines:

Lifeline 131114
Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800


Australian Bureau of Statistics (2006) Suicides, Australia,1994 to 2004 [Online]

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