Fact: Suicide is the second leading cause of death in children and adolescents, after accidental deaths among youth aged 15-24 years. This accounts for 17.3-20.4% of adolescent mortality, and 1.4% of children under 14 years mortality. The national incidence rate of 11.6 per 100,000 population means that for every 8,620 young people between 15-24 years, there will be one death by suicide. (Dr. S. Kutcher, 2009)
Myth: Youth suicide is on the rise in Canada.
Fact: Recent Canadian epidemiological studies show overall stable rates of suicide over the past 30 years, BUT, trends are changing. While death by suicide is nearly three times as high as found in females, the rates for females are increasing. (Skinner & McFaull, 2012) According to UNICEF, a third of Canadian suicides happen in Ontario, and nearly one in three occur among children and youth 10-24 years old.
Myth: Suicide attempts by local youth (Sarnia-Lambton & Chatham-Kent) are on the rise.
Fact: Between 2003-2011, the number of ER visits due to intentional self-harm for adolescents aged 15-19 years have decreased, according to the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (2013). That being said, this age group has the most suicide attempts, when compared to age groups across the lifespan.
Myth: Most youth will not reveal that they are suicidal or have emotional problems for which they would like emotional help.
Fact: Most youth will reveal that they are suicidal. One study indicated that as many as 80% of youth who attempt or die by suicide give some form of invitation or warning (Child & Adolescent Suicidal Behaviour, D. Miller, 2011, p.5). Studies have shown that youth are more willing to discuss suicidal thoughts with a peer than a school staff member. (Youth Suicide Prevention Guide, p.5)
Myth: Asking questions or talking about suicide with children and youth will give them the idea to do it.
Fact: There is NO evidence for this belief. This is the most significant and dangerous myth about youth suicide. In fact, youth who are able to openly discuss the issue of suicide often have many beneficial outcomes, including decreased risk for suicide.
Myth: Parents are often aware of their child’s suicidal behavior.
Fact: Studies have shown that as much as 86% of parents were unaware of their child’s suicidal behavior. Because youth are more willing to talk to a peer, the concern is that the peer may not let an adult know. This reinforces the need for school personnel to directly ask youth about their suicidal behavior rather than relying on parents for this information.
Myth: Suicide is caused primarily by stress; with enough of it, anyone can be suicidal.
Fact: Although a stressful life event can be the final ‘trigger’ to a suicidal crisis, stress by itself is NOT sufficient to cause suicide. The causes of suicide are complex and there is no simple or single reason why people die by suicide.
Myth: People who are suicidal are ‘crazy’, ‘insane’, or ‘out of their minds’.
Fact: Usually when we think someone is ‘crazy’, it is because they are engaging in bizarre behaviours such as talking to themselves or hearing voices- behaviors largely associated with schizophrenia. The term insanity is a legal term, not a psychological one. People who are suicidal are not crazy, insane, or out of their minds, but, they typically do suffer from a great deal of emotional pain, caused in part by mental illness, most frequently depression. In fact, research suggests that 90% or more of youth who die by suicide have at least one diagnosable mental disorder at the time of their deaths (Berman et al., 2006).
Myth: If someone wants to die by suicide, there is little or nothing that can be done to stop it.
Fact: Often people who are suicidal are in a state of crisis, and when the crisis passes so too does the suicidal behavior. Preventing someone from suicide does not guarantee that the person will not attempt suicide again at a later date. But, many people stopped from suicide do not later die from it.
Myth: People who talk about killing themselves don’t do it; they are just looking for attention.
Fact: For many suicidal people, suicide is more of a ‘cry of pain’ than a ‘cry for help’. People who talk about killing themselves often make suicide attempts; it is not simply a way to get attention.
Myth: Suicide is an impulsive act that people do on a ‘whim’.
Fact: Although some suicides may appear as if the person behaved impulsively, this is typically not the case. People who attempt or die by suicide have usually thought about killing themselves for a long time and have made specific plans to do so.
Myth: Suicide can be a rational solution to one’s problems.
Fact: Children and youth who are suicidal are often very sad and depressed and feeling hopeless. Their pain is very real, but they may not understand that it will get better and even go away with the appropriate treatment and support.