Suicide is one of the tragic choices many are opting in our day. It is not only a painful choice to the one who opts for it but also agonizing to those left behind.

If the one who attempted or committed suicide is a person close to us, the pain is unbearable. Our mind is often haunted with these thoughts, "Why did he/she take such a drastic decision?; I wish I had done something to save him/her?"

As important as it is to discern the symptoms of those attempting or committing suicide in order to save them, it is helpful to have an understanding about some of the myths on suicide. Knowing these myths will assist us to better understand the signs of suicide. H. Norman Wright, in his book Crisis Counseling,[1] describes some of the common myths which I believe people must extract from their mind.

Myth 1: Suicide and attempted suicide are the same class of behavior. Norman clarifies that suicide is committed usually by one who wants to die, whereas attempted suicide is carried out usually by one who has some desire to live.[2] Isn’t it deeply moving to know that people who are attempting suicide are actually crying out for help, hoping to be rescued?

Myth 2: Suicide is a problem of a specific class of people. One of the mystifying things about suicide is this—it is no respecter of people. It can knock any person of any class at any age. Norman states that suicide is neither the curse of the rich nor the disease of the poor.[3] Any person—from whatever, culture, class or creed—may opt for suicide.

Suicide attempts and suicide can be found among any group—rich or poor, beauty or ugly, literate or illiterate, young or old, successful or failure, prominent or notorious, employer or employee—anyone is vulnerable to commit suicide. As a response to life’s crises, suicide and self-destructive behaviors are among people of every age, sex, race, religion, and economic and social class.[4] Although suicide rate is high among some age group (especially among youth), one cannot underestimate the possibility of committing suicide at any age. Doesn’t reading the daily news show us how people from various backgrounds are committing suicide?

Myth 3: People who talk about suicide don’t commit suicide. Norman brings an eye-opening fact that about 80 percent of those who take their own lives have communicated their intention to someone prior to the act.[5] People, who reveal their desire to commit suicide, either indirectly or directly, are in reality seeking someone’s attention to help them. Therefore, shouldn’t we take any threats and hints about suicide seriously?

Myth 4: Once a person is suicidal, he is suicidal forever. Norman writes that many who have thought of or attempted suicide have discovered the answers to their problems, and they are no longer suicidal.[6] Studies also disclose the fact that individuals who wish to kill themselves are suicidal only for a limited period of time.[7] Although there is still possibility (perhaps greater), we cannot justify our sense of apprehensiveness by assuming that once a person who attempted suicide he or she is suicidal all the time.

Myth 5: Suicide is inherited or runs in families. Another myth Norman deals is—if another family member has committed suicide, this fact could cause a person to be fearful of his own future behavior. He asserts that being suicidal isn’t an inherited tendency but a learned behavior upon which family environment and examples of others may be influencing factors.[8] In his book Suicide, French sociologist Emile Durkheim disputed the claim that suicide is hereditary.[9] Similarly, Gordon Edlin and Eric Golanty have observed:

Suicide is not a disease, nor is it a disorder that can be inherited. Suicides are not caused by the weather or a full moon. Generally people consider suicide because they feel overwhelmed and painfully distressed by life and they believe suicide to be their only option.[10]

I always wondered why numerous people in India, especially women, commit suicide via self-immolation. The thought of killing oneself by burning is too daunting to me. In 1998, India was the only country in the world where fire (burns) was classified among the 15 leading causes of death.[11] In all female suicides, burns was the commonest method adopted by over 60% females.[12] This could be because of its likeness to the culturally approved practice of sati [13] in the past. My study of this act taught me how a sociocultural environment can tragically impact a person.

Myth 6: Suicide and depression are synonymous. Everyone who either attempts or commits suicide is in some way depressed but not every person who is depressed is suicidal. Norman shares, “Most people who attempt suicide are experiencing stress, and yet others experience stress without thoughts of suicide.”[14] Although depression is not certainly a sign of suicidal thoughts, whenever a person is depressed we should be on the lookout for any thoughts or indications of the possibility of suicide.

Myth 7: Improvement after a suicidal crisis means that the risk of suicide is over. A person immediately overcoming a suicidal crisis isn’t at once free from the risk of suicide, just as once a person is suicidal he or she isn’t suicidal forever. Norman cites an indication which is based on a particular research—almost half the persons who were in a suicidal crisis and later actually committed suicide did so within three months of having passed through their first crisis.[15] Therefore, we must still be concerned and cautions when a suicide attempt person talks about straight away solving his problems with high emotional excitement.

Myth 8: If a person is a Christian, he/she will not commit suicide. This myth is quite prevailing and requires careful consideration. There are people who falsely assume that a true Christian cannot commit suicide. Well, does the Holy Bible guarantee that Christian life is always bubbly and jolly? Some of the people I have seen committing suicide were nice Christians. I have even witnessed those who are active in ministry attempting suicide.

Some may question, “How can a person believe in Christ Jesus who delivers people from sin and misery and yet attempt or commit suicide? Is Jesus incompetent to help people in their crisis?” I wish to ask a question in response to this, “How can a Christian suffer from worry, disappointment and fear when situations seem to be overwhelming with troubles? Does that mean Christ is impotent to help them?” It is important to note that a person believing in Christ can still lack faith and knowledge about how to deal with certain challenges of life in the light of God’s Sovereignty.

It is also true that a Christian may still possess some distorted views about God, themselves and life because of their ignorance or lack of wholehearted acceptance about what the Holy Bible asserts about such things. So, there is a difference between trusting Christ for the forgiveness of sins and believing Christ to help us overcome a particular problem.

Although a Christian’s act of suicide cannot be justified as a valid decision, just like any non-Christians, he or she is nevertheless not free from the temptation to commit suicide.[16] Says Norman, “Christians as well as non-Christians experience all kinds of physical and emotional disorders. Because of the many factors that could cause a person to consider suicide, we need to remember that none of us is immune.”[17]
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Notes:

[1] H. Norman Wright, Crisis Counseling(San Bernardino, CA: Here’s Life Publishers, 1985)
[2] Ibid., 100.
[3] Ibid., 100.
[4] David A. Jobes et. al, [ed] Albert R. Roberts, Crisis Intervention Handbook (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 396
[5] Crisis Counseling, 100.
[6] Ibid., 100.
[7] Antoon A. Leenaars, [eds] Hannelore Wass and Robert A. Neimeyer, Dying: Facing The Facts
(Washington, D.C.: Taylor & Francis, 1995),150 [8] H. Norman Wright, Crisis Counseling(San Bernardino, CA: Here’s Life Publishers, 1985), 100-101
[9] Steve Lukes, Emile Durkheim, His Life and Work: A Historical and Critical Study(Stanford University Press, 1985), 203-203
[10] Gordon Edlin and Eric Golanty, Health and Wellness (Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett Publishers, 2007), 78
[11] Anil K. Batra, "Burn mortality: Recent Trends and Sociocultural Determinants in Rural India." Burns Volume 29, Issue 3, May 2003, Pages 270-275
[12]Crisis Counseling, 100-101
[13] Sati was the traditional Hindu practice of a widow immolating herself on her husband's funeral pyre. It is now illegal and considered a crime.
[14] Crisis Counseling, 101
[15] Ibid., 101
[16] Will a Christian go to hell if he or she commits suicide? The Holy Bible doesn’t clearly pronounce any judgment on such an act and I think it isn’t wise on my part to attempt to do so. Although I neither condone nor condemn the act of suicide one thing I can certainly say—God wants you to live by His all-sufficient grace.
[17]Crisis Counseling , 101

Stephen David