According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were an estimated 788,000 suicide deaths worldwide in 2015. Close to 800,000 people die due to suicide every year, which is one person every 40 seconds, making it the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds globally.
While the discussion on mental health is improving, the stigma still exists and many Filipinos continue to believe in the fallacies about suicide, which makes it harder for those suffering from depression from getting help. “But with proper education, there is hope,” said SOS Philippines (Survivors of Suicide and Depression)
Fallacy: Suicide is often done on a whim.
Fact: 75% of victims have shown signs of depression a month or two before suicide.
Fallacy: Once a person decides on suicide, there’s nothing you can do about it.
Fact: “Even the most severely depressed person has mixed feelings about death, and most waver until the very last moment [between] wanting to live and wanting to end their pain,” explains save.org, a suicide prevention organization in the US. If properly approached, suicide can be prevented.
Fallacy: A deeply religious person will never attempt or even think about suicide.
Fact: “Religion and spirituality are not the absolute and only protective aspects that may prevent a person from ever developing clinical depression and/or possibly becoming suicidal,” says Dr. Rene Samaniego, M.D., a Filipino psychiatrist who specializes in psychosomatic medicine and cognitive-behavioral therapy. After Purpose Driven Life author Rick Warren’s son completed suicide in 2013, the pastor advocated the importance of psychiatric help combined with community support and not just prayers alone in dealing with depression.
Fallacy: Suicide happens only to people of a certain demographic.
Fact: Suicidality doesn’t choose its victims. It can strike any gender, race, age, financial status, personality, religion, and upbringing. It can happen to even the most intelligent, spiritual, successful, and strong-willed people.
Fallacy: Depressed and suicidal people should just shake it off.
Fact: Most clinically depressed people can’t thoroughly explain their own depression and suicidal feelings. Not to be confused with sadness, depression is a recognized medical condition. Like cancer, pneumonia, and all other diseases, you can’t simply “shake off” this clinical ailment. Forcing a depressed person to shake it off can actually make them feel worse.
Fallacy: People who talk about suicide are just KSP (kulang sa pansin).
Fact: Suicidal people feel hopeless and don’t know what to do. They have a chemical imbalance in their brain that makes them think and act irrationally. You should never invalidate or belittle a person’s struggles, especially when they are already crying for help. Effective and evidence-based interventions can be implemented at population, sub-population and individual levels to prevent suicide and suicide attempts, according to WHO.
Fallacy: We should just ignore a suicidal person and not take him/her seriously. Talking to them about suicide must be avoided because it could lead them to actually do it.
Fact: “[Suicidal people] are in pain and often times reach out for help because they do not know what to do and have lost hope,” explained Kevin Caruso, founder of suicide.org, which promotes suicide prevention, awareness, and support. “Always take people who talk about suicide seriously. Always.” This is important because you will learn more about their mindset and intentions, and allow them to diffuse some of the tension that is causing their suicidal feelings [via suicide.org].
Fallacy: Suicidal people and those undergoing psychiatric help are crazy.
Fact: The term “crazy” and other condescending labels stigmatize mental health disorders, which is why many are forced to hide and be ashamed of their condition. In reality, unless they exhibit actual signs of psychosis, psychiatric patients are far from crazy. “Instead of ostracizing them, what they need is compassion and empathy,” Dr. Samaniego said.
Fallacy: Psychiatry is only for the rich (“sakit mayaman”) because they exaggerate their problems and can pay doctors or therapists to talk to them.
Fact: “Emotional and psychological pain and distress are universal experiences that are not limited to a specific social or financial class or status,” explained Dr. Samaniego. Psychiatry is an established field of medicine, just like oncology and pediatrics. “The combination of treatment approaches such as medication and psychotherapy has become the common mode in current practice, and thus, seeking psychiatric [consultation] and treatment involves a whole slew of approaches and goes way beyond just ‘talking’ to the psychiatrist,” Samaniego added.
Fallacy: Everybody has problems and gets depressed, so this shouldn’t be a big deal. Sadness and depression are one and the same.
Fact: The misuse of clinical terms such as depression, bipolar, and ADD (attention deficit disorder) leads to harsher judgment on people who actually suffer from them. There’s a major difference between regular sadness and clinical depression. Sadness is a natural, human emotional response when something bad happens in your life, like a breakup. “Depression is caused by biological or psychological triggers or both. Most depressives have a chemical imbalance in the brain,” according to Psych Central.
If you are suffering from suicidal thoughts or depression, there is help and hope. Call the following free hotlines:
Landline: (02) 893-7603
Globe Duo: 0917-8001123
Sun Double Unlimited: 0922-8938944
PLDT: (02) 804-4673
Globe: (0917) 558-4673
Toll-free for Globe/TM: 2919
*This article was originally published on May 30, 2015 and updated on June 6, 2018.