A person who has not experienced a suicide by a loved one at some point in their life may think of a highly depressed person when asked to imagine a suicidal person. Ask someone who has experienced a loved one’s suicide, though, and they may have a slightly different answer. This is mostly due to a large public misconception that only really depressed people commit suicide.
Depression is a debilitating sickness. The word depression comes from the Latin word deprimere, which literally means “press down.” This means there is a feeling of heaviness, and it is also referred to as being “sad,” “blue,” or “simply down” (Kanter et al., 2008). Globally, around 350 million people suffer from depression (“Depression,” 2015). While depression can definitely cause suicide, the two do not always walk hand in hand. About 800,000 people die from suicide a year (Suicide data, 2015), which is much less than 350 million people, proving that not every depressed person commits suicide. And, as many people will tell you about their loved ones who committed suicide, not every suicidal person is depressed.
So, why do people commit suicide? This is not an easy question to answer. A blog called Mental Health Daily published an article discussing the “15 Common Causes of Suicide.” Some of the reasons included mental illness, unemployment, traumatic experiences, and relationship problems (“15 common causes of suicide: Why do people kill themselves?,” n.d.). Other articles online list different reasons, in different orders. The book 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology lists depression, schizophrenia, substance abuse, panic disorder, social phobia, and borderline personality disorder, among many others, as illnesses associated with suicide (2010). All sources, scholarly or not, list these causes in different orders and different ways, but they all have one thing in common – they mention more than just severely depressed people.
Suicide is not an easy thing to cope with. It often brings about statements or questions like “I didn’t know he was depressed,” “Why was she hiding that she was so sad?” “Why did he do this?” While we may never completely know what causes people to commit suicide, what we do know is that it is different for every person, and even non-depressed people can do it.
15 Common Causes Of Suicide: Why Do People Kill Themselves?
29, 2015, from http://mentalhealthdaily.com/2014/07/23/
Depression. (2015, October). Retrieved November 29, 2015, from
Kanter, J., Busch, A., Weeks, C., & Landes, S. (2008). The nature of clinical
depression: Symptoms, syndromes, and behavior analysis. Association for Behavior Analysis International, 31(1), 1-21.
Lilienfeld, S. O., Lynn, S. J., Ruscio, J., & Beyerstein, B. L. (2010). 50 great
myths of popular psychology: Shattering widespread misconceptions
about human behavior. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
Suicide data. (2015, October). Retrieved November 29, 2015,