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Dispelling 5 common myths about suicide

Dr. Renee Repka addresses common myths about suicide to continue a conversation about the issue.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Since the release of the Reality of Suicide, when three mothers shared their stories of losing children to suicide, we have been looking for ways to provide resources and information about this difficult, uncomfortable issue.

The stories brought up many ideas and questions surrounding teen suicide.

SERIES: The Reality of Suicide

We went to Dr. Renee Repka, a psychologist with Child & Adult Clinical Associates, to dispel some of the common myths and continue the conversation.

RELATED: Resources: Where to find mental health help in East TN

1. Talking about suicide will give someone the idea to kill themselves.

Repka said this idea is one of the most common myths about suicide, when in fact, the opposite is true.

"People who are thinking about hurting themselves are disconnected from people frequently and on their own and feel alone and lonely, and so the idea of connection and communication can actually help them," Repka said. 

Want tips on approaching the topic? Repka has some advice:

2. They just want attention. They are selfish. They are taking the easy way out.

While this idea was not explicitly stated in the stories or follow up discussions, it still seems to invade the broader conversation about suicide.

RELATED: Start the conversation: What parents should know about teen suicide

"I think it’s quite the opposite, honestly. I think that these are people who are in so much pain and they feel like they’re taking away from so many other people, that they maybe feel like they don’t need to be here," Repka said.

She also said any mentions or threats of self-harm should not be dismissed or taken lightly.

3. They seem happy so they must be back to normal.

Monica Gouffon said her daughter, Sasha, actually seemed to be turning a corner after battling depression for years when she died by suicide.

"The energy of being depressed just flattens you out, and it’s really later when people start to feel a little bit better then they have the energy to do it that’s when they’re most at risk," Repka said.

RELATED: Sleep deprivation can put your teen's life at risk. Here's how you can help them

While recovery is possible with professional help and support, Repka said the key is consistency, even when things seem to be going well. 

4. A suicidal person will always be suicidal.

This topic is tricky because it depends on the individual and the level of help and support they are receiving.

"It’s sort of like anything else, it will recur. If they get [suicidal ideations], they’re vulnerable to that," Repka said.

Again, she pushed for consistency of care.

5. Suicide only affects people with mental health conditions.

While mental health is a key factor in suicidality, Repka said this idea is not true.

"There are healthy people, reasonable people that have jobs and families and loved ones and are living their lives that kill themselves, as well as there are mentally ill people who never hurt themselves," Repka said.

She said a number of factors like extreme unhappiness can push people to hurt themselves.

RELATED: Teen suicide could be recognized as a health crisis in Tennessee

Suicide Prevention Resources

If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Crisis Text Line: Text TN to 741741 if you're struggling with thoughts of suicide.

Lifeline ofrece 24/7, gratuito servicios en español, no es necesario hablar ingles si usted necesita ayuda. Cuando usted llama al número 1-888-628-9454, su llamada se dirige al centro de ayuda de nuestra red disponible más cercano.

Additionally, the peer recovery call center available in East Tennessee, where those who answer the hotline have first-hand experience in the area.

The center can be reached at 1-865-584-9125 between 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Lifeline Crisis Chat: Chat online with a specialist who can provide emotional support, crisis intervention, and suicide prevention services

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