Grief Talk w/ Vonne Solis

Ep. 8 The Myths and Truths About Suicide

September 14, 2022 Vonne Solis Season 1 Episode 8
Grief Talk w/ Vonne Solis
Ep. 8 The Myths and Truths About Suicide
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In this Coffee Chat episode, learn about the 7 myths of suicide as debunked by mental health experts and how this can reframe your grief experience if you have lost a loved one to suicide.
0:11   Introduction to the episode.
5:46   Everyone who attempts suicide has a mental health condition.
7:59   People who attempt suicide are selfish.
9:35   People who threaten suicide want attention.
11:15 Suicide is a choice.
12:52 Talking about suicide leads to suicide.
13:33 A better mood means the risk of suicide is no longer present.
16:34 You can't prevent someone from attempting suicide.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or mental health matters, please call:

Talk Suicide Canada
Hours: Available 24/7/365 for calls; 4 PM—12 AM ET for texts; Languages: English, French 1-1-833-456-4566
More info

Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or 800-273-8255 to connect with a trained counselor, or visit the NSPL site.

Connect with Vonne:
Books (by Vonne)
Lessons in Surviving Suicide – A Letter to My Daughter
Divine Healing Transforming Pain into Personal Power – A Guide to Heal Pain From Child Loss, Suicide and Other Grief
The Power of Change

Subscribe to the podcast! Share your favourite episodes! Connect with Vonne on LinkedIn and Facebook.

Vonne Solis  0:00  Welcome to another Grief Talk Coffee Chat episode. I'm your host, Vonne Solis.

Vonne Solis  0:11  
So welcome to a another coffee chat episode. These are solo episodes, where I dive deep into topics that are of interest to me. They might be out in the media as well right now and I hope that they are of interest to you. Talking about things that are uncomfortable related to grief, suicide, trauma and other situations, helps us to start a conversation. And for those of us that need this conversation because we've been impacted by something that people don't want to talk about, is one of my missions to change on this podcast. 

Vonne Solis  0:48  
So today, we're going to be talking about the myths and truths of suicide. The myths, I'm going to be identifying seven that have been written about recently in an article which I will be putting the link below if you want some more detail on what clinicians have been saying, or I should say, identifying about myths of suicide. And I was so ecstatic, actually, when I saw this article recently, because I did lose my daughter. For those that have not seen previous episodes, I did lose my daughter Janaya at age 22, to suicide in July 2005. Needless to say, it was a shock. It's taken years and years and years to learn how to live with the trauma of that situation. I do have PTSD as a disorder. And I clearly have another disorder called prolonged grief disorder that was just recently entered into the DSM five, the diagnostic manual for clinicians, and otherwise known as complicated grief. 

Vonne Solis  1:52  
So without a lot of conversation about things that are uncomfortable, including PTSD and now the new prolonged grief disorder, speaking about the myths of suicide was like for me, opening up a Christmas present. And I was like, Whoa, what's happening? What's new? Why are they talking about this? Why did this make a an article. A full blown media media article, probably that went around the world. This article came out in conjunction with the rollout of a 988 national suicide prevention hotline in the US in mid-July. 

Vonne Solis  2:29  
In Canada, I just want to say there has been a push politically to pass a 988 bill in Parliament and it was passed, and then we had an election and it's that Bill has gone somewhere. I don't know where it has gone. But there has been some resistance in Canada for a few different factors about initiating a 988 hotline across the country. Some of these from what I've read are the technical complexities, the cost that it would, would be and integrating the line across the country. 

Vonne Solis  3:06  
So I'm just saying a 988, I'm in full favor of a 988 number helping anybody who is at risk of suicide or dealing with a mental health issue that could lead to a suicide attempt or actual act. So I took a look at it, I read and I thought, I'm going to share these myths. And I'm going to speak about what I can add from my perspective, in my experience as a bereaved mother, who has lived with a lot of stigma from the suicide of my child. And it is the same stigma I would offer that any loved one lives with, no matter the age of the individual in their family, who died. Or as or I should add, as well as a really good friend. You know, whatever the relationship was, suicides can have lasting impact on on people that weren't even related to that person. Such as a really good friend who maybe took their life when you were a teenager, or was a really really, you know, good family friend. Maybe friends of your parents. Suicide is not just people of a certain age that are dying. Suicide happens from children - the youngest I know of a suicide that I've read about, don't personally know but read about is about eight, all the way up to very senior years. It affects both men, women, non-gendered individual. It affects any race, any color, any of us in any socio-economic situation, any level of education, any type of profession or job. It doesn't matter. No one is safe from losing a loved one to suicide, and I would argue, no one is truly, truly safe from the risk of even having just suicidal thoughts in reaction to something that is going on in our life that could be very temporary and immediate.

Vonne Solis  5:31  
So let's dive into the myths, okay? And let's see if it helps us change our mind about suicide. Helps us change our mind about a loved one, if we have lost someone to suicide, and helps us actually just have a little bit of a different conversation about suicide.

Vonne Solis  5:46  
So Myth number one. And again, these are identified by clinicians in the mental health field. Myth number one is that everyone who attempts suicide has a mental health condition. Clinicians say this is absolutely not true. Not everyone fits the criteria for a mental health disorder. And in many cases, suicides occur in reaction to a stressful situation that and I'm going to add, could be immediate and temporary, where they feel hopeless, and that they can't get out of the situation. 

Vonne Solis  6:24  
So as a bereaved mom, wanting to honor my daughter who made the choice to die, not one I agreed with, but not wanting to brush it off, and I have written about this quite a bit, as a mental health illness. They don't even really say disorder, just mental health illness, has been too simple for me to accept. And I also don't want her memory tarnished. And I don't want people making assumptions who didn't know her. Without a diagnosis, there was nothing in her situation that would have identified her as at risk, or that she was living with a mental health illness. 

Vonne Solis  7:03  
So the suicide was shocking, like all of them are. There were no warning signs. You can say there are warning signs when you look back, but ahead of the suicide, there were no warning signs. And it that has been very hard for myself and the rest of our family to live with. Because it's very hard to accept that someone that you just can't see it coming would do that. It can go there's many, many, many more things I would like to say about it, but I'm only dealing with the myths right now. So yay, not everyone who attempts and I would offer that actually dies by suicide has a mental health problem. Again, clinicians say this could be an impulsive act in reaction to a stressful situation, or a feeling of hopelessness that they can't get out of that situation. So they make a choice.

Vonne Solis  7:59  
Myth number two. People who attempt suicide are selfish. I have never really struggled with this. I have heard this myth but I don't really give it much credence. But according to clinicians, the reason that this is absolutely not true is because they say that rather someone who dies by suicide may be dealing with different like neurological changes in the brain that are happening in a moment where they are being really nearsighted and can't see a long term picture to get themself out of a situation. So the focus is that they just want to end their struggles and they believe that they are a burden to their loved ones, hence, the attempt or the actual suicide.

Vonne Solis  8:46  
So for me, as a bereaved mom, I have actually always sort of thought about this in the sense that if my daughter didn't have a mental health condition, and I did know for a fact that she, I found this out afterwards that she did feel she was a burden to us. She was dealing with, you know, pressures. She was 22 she was dealing with certain pressures. And you know, what she wanted to you know, what did she want to do in life and I don't know, maybe probably feeling hopeless, that you know, is this it? Which a lot of us feel at various em, you know, stages in our life. So, I feel a little bit relieved about the fact that this may have been a choice in a moment. But I also feel really, really terrible at the same time.

Vonne Solis  9:35  
Myth number three. People who threaten suicide one attention. Clinicians say this is absolutely not true. I would offer that anyone who talks about suicide, that they are feeling suicidal, that they're thinking about it, or they're thinking or they're or sorry, they're talking about it in really obscure terms, which is what my daughter did. Signs we all missed. She was testing the waters, kind of feeling us out. What our reaction was going to be. Maybe she was hoping for more conversation. Maybe everybody that talks about suicide in a very, you know, obscure or random way, is really looking to open up a conversation so that they can get some help or feel supported in whatever it is that they're going through, but are too afraid to actually dive in deep into that conversation. 

Vonne Solis  10:33  
So the myth that anybody who talks about suicide wants attention, clinicians say absolutely not true. I would offer, we need to start talking about this more within our families, and certainly in our communities and much more publicly, so that everybody can feel safe when they do have feelings of self-harm, or that they just don't want to be here on the planet. I felt that for sure. Didn't make me want to actually do anything. But I've certainly felt that and being able to talk with a couple of very, very close loved ones about that helped me get over those, those moments. 

Vonne Solis  11:15  
Myth number four. That suicide is a choice. So going back to Myth number one that everyone who attempts suicide has a mental health issue. Coming back to this myth number four, that suicide is a choice, clinicians say no, this is not true. Rather, it is their limited capacity to look at a situation long-term and see a way out of their struggles or their current situation, whatever it is, that is causing them high degree of stress. And again, this is where there are neurochemical changes in the brain in that moment when they are making this choice. But they didn't really elaborate on this point.

Vonne Solis  12:01  
So for me, I'm going to offer that my bet is a lot more research needs to be done in this area. What is happening when someone is feeling so desperate? But where are they going to get their subjects? Who are these people going to be where they can study what is going on in the brain at a, a moment when someone chooses to end their life? I had to stop and really kind of take a breath with this one, because obviously I'm thinking this is what happened with my daughter and happens with pretty much everyone in those moments. In seconds. And while I won't go into detail here, all I will say is for anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide, those final moments and seconds can haunt us for the rest of our life.

Vonne Solis  12:52  
Myth number five. That talking about suicide will actually lead to or encourage other people to attempt or die by suicide. Clinicians say not true. In fact, their view is that having conversations with other people about this opens the way for those who are vulnerable and at risk to share some of what they're feeling. Their story. Their current experience. And just talking it out. This is totally what my work is all about and I am so happy that talking about suicide will lead or encourage others to attempt or actually commit suicide is a total myth.

Vonne Solis  13:33  
Myth number six. That a better mood in someone who presents as a suicide risk means that the risk of suicide is no longer present. That is totally not true. What clinicians say is that the three months following an attempt that has failed, puts that individual the most at risk of actually dying within those three months. They also say that the lighter mood may actually indicate that the individual has made a final decision about ending their life and this is what is actually causing them to seem to be in a lighter mood. That they feel better about their decision.

Vonne Solis  14:21  
So, this one caught me also by surprise and left me almost breathless for a moment. Because this is exactly what my daughter went through. Two months before her suicide, in the May, she was starting to make amends in many different ways, Tying up things. And I saw all of this as her mom who was communicating with her daily by phone, as a sign of her maturing. Boy did I miss the signs. So there's really not much more I can offer except to say to those who are worried about a loved one right now, um, being at risk of self harm of attempting suicide, that to please don't take any change in them that, you know, as a sign that they're okay. They're not. They're not. 

Vonne Solis  15:19  
You get a chance to kind of check up on them and have the courage to talk to them about what they're feeling. What they're going through and asking them plain out, have you made a decision to end your life? Is this the only way you see out of your struggle? The only way that you feel you won't be a burden to us anymore? I didn't get the chance. None of our family got that chance. Don't miss out on the opportunity folks.

Vonne Solis  15:47  
The other thing clinicians said on this point was that when the person has made a final decision to end their life, and they have failed, so within those three months, it could be longer, but the average is that those three months or that critical period, their attempts will become much more lethal. Meaning they will become much more determined in the way that they make another attempt that they will not fail. By the way I hate the word lethal, but I'm saying it here so that we understand the seriousness is just way too light a word for this, but the reality of the fact that suicide is lethal.

Vonne Solis  16:34  
Myth number seven. You can't prevent someone from attempting suicide. So clinicians say this is not true. Research shows that interventions can sometimes offer individuals who are at risk of suicide, to look at their situation as being given a new lease on life. However, this doesn't work for everybody. It can depend on two things. One, genetic makeup, and two dynamic factors. Which are things that are constantly changing in that individual's life. So what may impact them one day, and they may see this as a new lease on life, the next day, something could rock their world and they may be at risk of attempting or completing suicide. In the end, clinicians said people are going to do what they want to do. And as a bereaved mom, I'm going to offer that we can never, ever become complacent in the compassion and care that we offer, not only our loved ones, but each other.

Vonne Solis  17:37  
If you or anybody is at risk, watching or listening to this episode, please, please, please talk to somebody. Reach out. Get help. In the States, you've got that 988 number. In Canada, we have health lines, texting, and so on. And I'll put links below. I'm personally and it's not that I'm against 10 or 11 digit lines to call or numbers to call. But anything is better than nothing. But Canada we need to get a 988 number. I'll put a link below to a petition to get this number implemented in Canada. It doesn't cost anything. You can donate if you want or you can just share the the link at the time of airing this episode if if that petition is still going around. Their goal was to get 35,000 names. I signed it and shared it. So I'll put it there in case it's still active.

Vonne Solis  18:32  
Thanks for watching. Thanks for listening. Until next time.

Transcribed by

The myths.
Everyone who attempts suicide has a mental health condition.
People who attempt suicide are selfish.
People who threaten suicide want attention.
Suicide is a choice.
Talking about suicide leads to suicide.
A better mood means the risk of suicide is no longer. present
You can't prevent someone from attempting suicide.