Truth or Myth - About Adult Suicide

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call:

Click here to visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Click here to visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website.

Notice: The Office of Suicide Prevention website is informational and not intended as a crisis response or hotline. Local crisis hotline numbers can be found in the front of your local phone book or call 911.

What Do You Know About Suicide?

Mark each question below as Truth or Myth then check your answers below.

  1. Most suicidal people have made up their minds that they really want to die.
  2. Mental health professionals are the only ones that can really help a suicidal person.
  3. People who want attention talk about suicide; those who are set on killing themselves say nothing.
  4. There is no correlation between drug and alcohol abuse and suicide.
  5. Experts believe that for every one completed teen suicide, there are as many as two attempts.
  6. The number top factors associated with adolescent suicide are depression and feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.
  7. In Nevada, more people are murdered than commit suicide each year.
  8. Adolescent suicide is not a big factor in Nevada.
  9. Adolescent girls are more likely to attempt suicide than boys, but boys are more likely to complete suicide.
  10. People who are suicidal tend to hide it very well.
  11. People who talk about killing themselves or make suicide threats and attempts should always be treated seriously.
  12. Most suicidal people are in long-term crisis situations.
  13. If you ask a suicidal person about his suicidal intentions, you'll encourage the person to kill himself.
  14. Most suicidal people develop a plan for suicide. The more specific the plan, the greater the danger.
  15. A promise to keep a note unopened and unread should always be honored.

Answer Key

  1. Myth. Most suicidal people desperately want to live. Many will seek help immediately after attempting to harm themselves.
  2. Myth. Interventions by mental health professionals are very important, but many suicidal individuals never see a therapist. It is important that all people who interact with a suicidal person know how to help them.
  3. Myth. All suicide threats must be taken seriously. This behavior may be a sign of deep depression, and professional help is needed. While it may, in fact, be a manipulative act, it is one that can end in death.
  4. Myth. Alcohol, drug use and suicide often go hand in hand. Addicts are at increased risk for suicidal behavior. Even people who don't usually drink or use drugs will often use these substances shortly before killing themselves.
  5. Myth. The problem is even more common; for every completed youth suicide, there are an estimated 20 or more attempts by other young people.
  6. Truth. Most suicidal people suffer some degree of depression. In young people, depression often goes undiagnosed until a crisis occurs. Depression may leave a person feeling drained and "too tired" to carry out a suicide plan. When depression begins to lift and there is sudden improvement, be aware that it could be a very dangerous time. The three months following a period of depression are thought to be a critical time for suicide risk. During this period, the person has the energy to act, and may even appear cheerful and at peace with the world.
  7. Myth. In Nevada, suicide has a higher death rate than homicide. In the time period of 1989-1998, the average per year deaths from murder was 162, while for suicide it was 339 - a 209% difference. The Homicide rate for Nevada is 11.2 (compared to the US rate of 8.7) while the suicide rate for Nevada is 24.1 (compared to the US rate of 12.0) - more than 2:1.
  8. Myth. In Nevada, youth suicide is the second leading cause of death. Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for youth.
  9. Truth. Four times as many young men kill themselves as young women. This is true despite the fact that three to four times as many young women attempt suicide.
  10. Myth. Suicidal people usually send strong warning signs. Warning signs are changes in a person's behavior that are considered to be out of character. Research shows that all individuals who attempt suicide give clues that they intend to kill themselves.
  11. Truth. All suicide threats should be taken seriously. Intervention should happen immediately.
  12. Myth. The average crisis period lasts for about two weeks. The earlier the intervention the better. Anyone can start the process to get a suicidal person the help they need.
  13. Myth. Talking about suicide does not cause someone to become suicidal. Encouraging someone to talk about pent-up emotions through a frank discussion shows that you care and are willing to help.
  14. Truth. Once the idea of suicide has been considered, the suicidal person has to plan the time, place, and means to complete the act. With early intervention, there is less time for a suicidal person to plan and the danger is decreased (though not eliminated).
  15. Myth. Promises and confidences cannot be maintained when the potential for harm exists. A sealed note can be a serious warning sign of suicidal intent.

Your Suicide Prevention Readiness Score

12 to 15 correct: You should be prepared to come to the aid of a potentially suicidal person. Remember, however, that your learning about this important subject never truly ends.

10 to 12 correct: You are quite knowledgeable about many aspects of suicide prevention. Learning more will give you tools that might help prevent a suicide.

10 or fewer correct: You need to learn more about various issues surrounding suicide prevention so that you can be there there if and when someone needs you.


This material is adapted with permission from The Hope Book: An Educator's Guide to Suicide Prevention - developed by the Healthy Community Coalition, an affiliate of the Franklin Community Health Network (PO Box 566, Farmington, ME 04938 - Phone: 201-778-7283)