When Suicide Attempts Are Not 'Real' Attempts

September 26, 2019 Kayla Chang

Trigger warning: This post contains a frank discussion of suicide attempts.

Suicide attempts are not all the same. The people behind them are not all the same. While much is said about those who attempt suicide with sincere conviction and commitment, there is a large and mostly silent group of people whose suicide attempts were impulsive, marked by ambivalence, or a “cry for help.” 

The Gray Area of Suicide Attempts

Suicide is not black-and-white. It is not either-or. 

Some attempts are more clear-cut than others. A person may plan months in advance, get all of his or her affairs in order, and leave a note. 

Other attempts are more obscure. Many attempt suicide without having judged decisively that is their best option. Suicide attempts can be a result of just a thought combined with a set of circumstances that allow for that thought to turn to action. Combining alcohol with suicidal ideation, for example, can be a dangerous precursor to an attempt. 

What does and does not qualify as a “true” attempt also comes into question when the method used is not as resolute as, say, a gunshot. Less statistically lethal methods such as overdosing on pills may be used not only out of reasons of accessibility but out of hesitance. 

The Stigma Around 'Fake' Suicide Attempts

Suicide attempts that are not readily understandable are often ridiculed. The true intent behind them is called into question and held in suspicion. They are dismissed as melodramatic gestures or a cry for attention — not the actions of a person in pain. 

Many of us whose suicide attempts exist in this gray area may feel embarrassed or ashamed. We can feel as though our attempts are not worth taking seriously because they were not serious attempts — at least, not in the eyes of others. We start to doubt our experiences and feel unable to talk about them out of fear of being judged. 

The decision to attempt suicide in any measure, to any degree — or even to think about suicide in any measure, to any degree — is a very serious one. It can get complicated and messy. It can be difficult to define. The lines may blur and we may not always understand our own thoughts and actions, let alone know how to explain them to others. 

But not fitting the exact mold of a suicide attempt does not mean our experiences are not real. They are real and they are important. And they deserve to be treated with dignity by everyone — starting with ourselves. 

Learn what a "real" suicide attempt is in my video:

If you feel that you may hurt yourself or someone else, call 9-1-1 immediately.


For more information on suicide, see our suicide information, resources and support section. For additional mental health help, please see our mental health hotline numbers and referral information section.

APA Reference
Chang, K. (2019, September 26). When Suicide Attempts Are Not 'Real' Attempts, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 24 from

Author: Kayla Chang

You can find Kayla on Google+.

September, 26 2019 at 8:22 am

Yes. This is such an important post. Thank you for writing about it. People need to know their pain and experiences are valid.

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