Study Confirms Asking Directly About Suicide Doesn’t Cause More Harm

Silvia Pittman
·3 mins read
Person wearing a gray hoodie walking along the beach on an overcast day
Person wearing a gray hoodie walking along the beach on an overcast day

What happened: A new study published in the Archives of Suicide Research showed that asking patients if they have suicidal thoughts or self-harm does not increase distress — confirming that asking directly about suicide doesn’t lead to more suicidal thoughts. Researchers reviewed 17 studies and used systemic review and random-effect meta-analysis on eight of the studies to compare the outcomes where participants had been asked about the behaviors and those where they hadn’t been asked.

  • Scientists say forest plots showed there was no significant effects on asking about suicide-related behaviors, suicidal ideation or self-injury

  • The study emphasized that although researchers found no harmful effects, more randomized controlled trials would be necessary to “firmly” conclude that there are no harmful effects in asking

Not only is asking important for truly understanding and improving public health surveillance efforts, it also is important for providing clinical care. However, few seek help for [self-injury and suicide-related behaviors], and even fewer voluntarily divulge this information. — Study authors

Related:Download The Mighty app to connect in real time with people who can relate to what you're going through.

The Frontlines: Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and according to the National Institute of Health, can be preventable when we ask directly about suicide. Advocates have done a lot of work to educate the public that asking about suicidal thoughts won’t “plant ideas” in someone’s head, but opens the door for those who are struggling to openly share what they’re feeling, including:

Related:Tamar Braxton Releases Statement About Suicide Attempt

  • Talking about feelings of hopelessness or having no purpose

  • Talking about feeling trapped or dealing with unbearable pain

  • Talking about being a burden to others

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A Mighty Voice: Our contributor, Yujia Ding, shared the important role the people around you can play in preventing suicide saying, “It is the simple hug, the smile, the warmth of your laughter and your ‘hello’ that has helped prevent my suicide, my death. And it is because of the kindness I’ve received in my journey from those near and dear to me that I pay it forward, that I speak out. Because at the end of the day, change starts with one, change starts here.” You can submit your first-person story, too.

Add your voice:

A banner promoting The Mighty's new Chat Space group on The Mighty mobile app. The banner reads, Want to talk and connect with others? Join Chat Space to check in with others or have a conversation that's not related to health (because we all need a break sometimes). Click to join.
A banner promoting The Mighty's new Chat Space group on The Mighty mobile app. The banner reads, Want to talk and connect with others? Join Chat Space to check in with others or have a conversation that's not related to health (because we all need a break sometimes). Click to join.

Other things to know: Understanding what it’s like to live with suicidal thoughts can help the public understand how to better offer support and potentially save a life. Here is what The Mighty’s contributors are saying:

How to take action: You can learn more about the study here and learn more about asking about suicide with this helpful resource.

Read more stories like this on The Mighty:

‘MacGyver’ Actor Lucas Till Says Abusive Work Environment Led to Suicidal Thoughts

How Outpatient Treatment After a Suicide Attempt Inspired Me to Help Others Like Me

Japanese Actor Haruma Miura Dies by Suspected Suicide at 30

What to Consider Before Celebrating the Future 3-Digit Suicide Hotline