A question (fear) came up (again) recently in discussion of bringing suicide prevention programs into schools that I want to address briefly and to, hopefully, lay to rest.
Will discussing suicide, especially with “impressionable young people” lead to an increase risk of attempted or completed suicide?
Sorry to shout, but this is another of those bits of common “knowledge” that needs to be shouted down. It is one of those “facts” that have become so familiar that it is believed to be true despite any proof that it is correct. Actually, when it is ever really studied it is shown to not be correct at all. Probably the best real study looking at this matter was published in the Journal of the American Medical Society in April 2005. The study participants were 2342 students in 6 New York State high schools in 2002-2004. The study found that asking about suicidal ideation and/or behavior did not create or increase psychic/psychological distress or increases suicidal ideation among the students generally nor among those considered high-risk already (those reporting depressive symptoms, substance use/abuse problems, and/or those with prior suicidal ideation).
This is an issue that needs to be talked about with children. This is a problem that must be addressed to prevent death. It can be discussed and it can be addressed without the fear that by so doing we will precipitate death.