People understand suicide in different ways. It’s normal to try and understand why people die by suicide.
Many beliefs about suicide in society and different cultures are based on things seen in the media, movies or in books, or on what we have heard when suicide is being spoken about by people we know.
While a person’s mental health and wellbeing may relate to their thoughts of suicide, it’s important to understand that many people can be struggling with their mental health and not be suicidal. And many people with thoughts of suicide may not struggle with their mental health, have a diagnosis nor had any contact with mental health support.
External factors can play a big role in someone’s likelihood of thinking about suicide, rather than a mental health diagnosis.
Some of these situational distress factors include housing insecurity, financial and employment difficulties, unhealthy relationships with family and intimate partners, trauma, or experiences of stigma and discrimination due to our identities. For more information about these factors, go here.
It makes sense that we might want to ignore the seriousness of stressful life situations or ongoing experiences of discrimination, it can also be difficult to see how these external things can have a negative impact on our health and wellbeing.
Suicide in our communities sometimes feel normalised due to the criminalisation and ongoing marginalisation of our identities and lives.
Clinicians and the people around us may dismiss or minimise suicidal thoughts of LGBTQ+ people because they think that suicidality is a ‘rite of passage’ and normal for our communities to experience. It isn’t.
Some of the incorrect thoughts and ideas about suicide in our society include:
False – People who die by suicide are mentally ill
Not all people who have thoughts of suicide or die by suicide have a mental health diagnosis. And many people with thoughts of suicide may not be struggling with their mental health. Life stressors, cisgenderism, transphobia, homophobia, biphobia, misogyny, racism, ableism, and saneism are all major contributing factors to why someone may be experiencing thoughts of suicide.
False – Suicide is impulsive
Although some suicides may happen suddenly, this is not the case for everyone. People who attempt or die by suicide may have tried reaching out to family and friends or tried to get support from crisis support services that were not inclusive or affirming or could not offer the support that was needed.
False – Talking about suicide will encourage someone to end their life
Concerns around ‘planting the seed’ for suicide can often get in the way of us asking and talking openly about suicide. Connection and community are crucial in supporting someone with thoughts of suicide.
False – Suicidal people are just looking for attention
Suicidal people may have been told in the past that they were just looking for attention when they have in fact just tried to talk or express their thoughts and feelings. It is crucial to provide a non-judgemental and affirming space to interact and connect to people about suicide.
We all benefit from connection, a sense of belonging and to feel understood.