Myths and facts

Some of the commonly held misconceptions about suicide or self-harm may stop you from recognising when someone is at risk. You may think they're seeking attention or being manipulative.

On the contrary, when someone talks about harming themselves, they’re usually saying “I’m not coping right now” or “I need some help”. They may harm themselves because they want to stop or release some of the unbearable pain they’re experiencing.

If someone is talking about suicide and self-harm, it should be taken seriously. Listen to their distress and suffering so that you understand what is going on for them.

Myth: Talking about suicide is a bad idea and might be interpreted as encouragement.

Given the widespread stigma around suicide, most people who are thinking about suicide don’t know who to talk to about it.  Rather than encouraging suicidal behaviour, talking openly about what is going on can give them other options, or the time to rethink their decision.

Myth: Once someone is suicidal, they will stay suicidal.

Heightened suicide risk is often short-term and situation-specific. While suicidal thoughts may return, they’re not permanent. Someone who has experienced suicidal thoughts or attempts can go on to live a long life.

Myth: Someone who is suicidal is determined to die.

Suicidal people often feel an overwhelming sense of distress and want this to end. When people are suicidal, they’re usually feeling alone or like they’re a burden to others and are in need of emotional support. Access to support at the right time can prevent suicide.

Myth: People who talk about suicide are not always intending to take their own life.

A significant number of people contemplating suicide are experiencing severe anxiety, depression and hopelessness and may feel that their only option is to end their own life. 

Myth: Most suicides happen without warning.

Most suicides are preceded by verbal or behavioural warning signs. Some suicides occur without any obvious warning, but it’s important to understand what the warning signs are and look out for them.

Myth: Only people with mental health conditions are suicidal.

Suicidal behaviour indicates deep unhappiness, not necessarily a mental health issue. Many people living with mental health issues aren’t suicidal, and not all people who take their own lives have a mental health issue.
The content in this section was sourced from the World Health Organization's Preventing suicide: a global imperative, myths.

Crisis support

If you are in an emergency, or at immediate risk of harm to yourself or others, please contact emergency services on 000. Other services include: