Medical myths: Discussing suicide can make people more suicidal
Max Pemberton busts the myth that speaking about suicide can increase sucidial feelings—talking can save lives.
Where did the myth come from?
It’s not easy talking to someone when they’re suicidal. People worry that they will say something wrong and make the situation worse.
It’s not just friends and family who can feel like this—studies have shown that doctors shy away from asking about suicidal thoughts in patients who come to them to discuss their low mood.
It’s assumed that by talking about suicide, you’re bringing it to the front of someone’s mind and will make them consider it as an option
What's the truth?
Research has shown that about half of the general public and a quarter of GPs believe that talking about suicide to someone who’s depressed or suicidal can make the problem worse.
This isn’t the case. In fact, research has shown that asking and talking about suicide reduces the risk.
So nothing to worry about?
While it’s important that people feel able to talk openly about suicidal thoughts, we know from other research that sensationalist media reporting of suicide—especially when it includes graphic details about the methods used—can make it more likely that someone will attempt to kill themselves.
Charities such as Mind have created guidelines on how the media should report suicide. But remember—how suicide is portrayed in the media is very different to speaking to someone about how they feel. We know that talking about suicide can save lives.
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