The eight myths of suicide: “Whoever talks about taking his own life is really contemplating it”

  • The clinical psychologist Francisco Villar collects the main falsehoods around this problem in his book ‘Dying before suicide. Prevention in adolescence’ (Herder)

in his book ‘Die before suicide. Prevention in adolescence’ (Herder), the psychologist at Sant Joan de Déu Hospital (Esplugues de Llobregat) Francis Villar addresses the eight main myths that exist around suicide. Villar, who is the coordinator of the care program for suicidal behavior in minors in Sant Joan de Déu, warns that “the most frequent cases of complaints for malpractice in mental health consist of the negligence of not adequately assessing the risk of suicide of a person”. That is why he calls to question and cast doubt on these myths. In Spain, a total of 3,941 people took their lives in 2020, the last year for which figures are available. It was a record.

“People who talk about suicide are not really committing it”

“Unfortunately, if someone says that he intends to end his life, it means that he’s really looking at it and at that point, The sooner you intervene, the better.” Villar writes in his book. In the adolescence, According to this expert, the best intervention is inform the parents of the detected risk situation”. In this way, they will be able to contact someone who can help the adolescent to change his situation.

“The suicide is determined to die”

According to Villar, it is false. The psychologist points out that “practically nothing in life you want to do ‘for real'”, because most decisions tend to “ambivalence” as the main vehicle. “We are always on the back of a indomitable horse of contradictions: smokers smoke wanting to quit; people stretch out on the sofa wanting to go out and do some sport. Hardly anyone is completely and infinitely determined to anything in life (…) No one commits suicide with 100% unshakable conviction, nobody lives with 100% unshakable conviction”, he writes. According to him, the first thing a person who throws himself into the void with the intention of ending his life thinks is: “I shouldn’t have jumped.”

“Improvement after a suicidal crisis means that there is no longer a risk of suicide”

The psychologist explains in his book that a person who has attempted suicide will, a priori, “higher risk” to repeat the attempt than someone with thoughts of death or suicidal ideas who has never tried. “The period of greatest risk is the first weeks after hospital discharge when changes in life or in the way of perceiving it have not yet occurred. Therefore, the Calm down after a suicidal crisis is the second moment of greatest risk, only surpassed by the moment of the crisis itself,” he advises.

“Talking about suicide is a bad idea”

False. Villar insists that you have to talk about suicide, but you have to do it “well”. “Talking about suicide can incite suicide if the adolescent is encouraged to commit it; offer a space in which the adolescent can sharing your ideas is a relief for the adolescent and an opportunity to receive the necessary help”, defends the psychologist. “On the contrary, perpetuating the advice not to talk about suicide, however liberating it may seem for society, has a high price for the person in suicidal crisis. The price is the loneliness of someone who has not voluntarily chosen to think about death.”

“Most suicides appear suddenly without warning”

The clinical reality reflects that most people who commit suicide or attempt to do so “come from long processes of reflection, assessment of the possibility of doing so, often lived alone, or focused on the dangerous and fantastic tool of mass communication that is the Internet”. According to Villar, people who commit suicide end up making that decision in response to a “trigger”, but “not as a result of this trigger.” “The explosion is not caused by the spark, but by the accumulation of gas that fills the room in which the spark is generated,” she explains.

“Once someone is suicidal, they always will be”

According to Villar, “suicidal people do not exist, only people in suicidal crisis, And it’s up to everyone to get out of that state.”

“Only people with mental disorders commit suicide”

As Villar recalls, suicide is “more common among people with mental disorders” than in the general population, but suicide “It’s not exclusive to them.” “This is especially true in the childhood and adolescence”, emphasizes. He also reminds that suicide itself is not a disease, but appears as a “complication” of other mental disorders.

“Only psychiatrists and psychologists can prevent suicide”

Although mental health professionals have to deal with the treatment of suicide, once prevention has appeared, Villar recalls in his book, It’s “everyone’s business”. He calls the implication of all agents to prevent this reality.

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