“I want to die.” “I’m so done, I just want to die.” “I swear I’m going to kill myself.” “This makes me suicidal.”
To many counselors, therapists, parents, or anyone not clued into to the cynical dialogue of teens and young adults, these statements raise huge red flags. They carry the shocking weight of someone brazenly stating something so tragic and upsetting. However for many, this is simply a sarcastic expression, a way to blow off steam. It’s a commonly used phrase over Snapchat, in school halls, during boring classes or on one’s Twitter feed. The nonchalance of suicide is juxtaposed by a rising epidemic across the world. The World Health Organization states that every 40 seconds, one person around the world dies because of suicide. By 2020, that is supposed to double to one person every 20 seconds. In a world where suicide is on the rise, and is an integral part of social discourse, how does this trend affect the way we deal with it?
The unfortunate reality of saying these things on such a casual everyday basis is that it normalizes suicidal thoughts. Even worse, it’s desensitizing society to such remarks. What used to be an immediate cry for help now can be easily be misconstrued as a relatable joke. While for some this may be a coping method, so many people my age do it that it becomes impossible to distinguish what’s serious and what isn’t. Your friend in math class could say they want to die because they’re grounded, or have to babysit after school. Next period, your lab partner could be saying the exact same thing but with plans in their mind.
Helping people struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts is so much harder when you don’t know who needs help. Additionally, because of how common this has become, we stop noticing when someone says that. We don’t stop to check how someone is doing or if they need to be talked to to if we hear that. Usually, we simply assume that it isn’t anything serious, because usually it isn’t, right? But sweeping those words aside can mean preventing people who need support from getting it. As those words keep getting swept aside more and more, it becomes easier to be seriously depressed without anyone truly noticing, and that can end tragically.
It gets worse when social media is involved. Opening Twitter, you’re met with a plethora of tweets all bearing the same disparity towards life–but why? Discovering the reasons and helping the right people becomes even more difficult. Social media creates a veil and you can choose every little thing that slips through. Hiding serious problems and deflecting concern becomes even easier through a screen. Social media strips away physical contact, which can be key in helping someone open up or noticing when someone is struggling.
This isn’t to say that my generation doesn’t care about suicide. So much is being done to try and increase suicide prevention. Support is given to everyone who needs it. If someone posts a rant thread seriously disclosing how they want to die, their DMs will be filled with concern and love. If people notice someone crying at school, they’ll ask if they’re okay. However, the issue lies in realizing when to help. It seems as if everywhere we turn, someone is saying something depressing and suicidal. There’s even a text abbreviation: ‘kms.’ A text abbreviation standing for something as serious as suicide seems absurd, but it shows how normalized these remarks have become. Sometimes even seeing all your peers and your friend group say these things can make a depressed person’s situation worse. “If all my friends are unhappy and hate their life, how can I be happy?” We are getting used to depression, and to suicidal thoughts, and it stops being a big deal.
The relatable sarcasm that’s been associated with saying “I want to die,” or “I’m going to kill myself,” is extremely dangerous and only enables those who are suicidal. It’s easy to stop this normalization: stop using these phrases. Simply put, it’s not funny. Nor is it really relatable for most people. Being frustrated because you’re drowning in homework is not the same as having a mental illness. Acting as if it is will only make this epidemic worse. Start thinking about how much you say these things, and start cutting it out. Give your friends little reminders when they do it that it’s really not funny and can be harmful. Most importantly, check in with everyone. Many times, it’s the people we least expect that are hurting the most. There’s nothing wrong with just simply bringing it up in conversation, or sending a text to someone asking if they’re doing okay. Even if they are completely okay, or don’t want to talk about their issues at that moment, it still leaves them feeling cared for. That feeling means so much to people, and it can even save someone.
We are a generation who cares. The person who is reading this, you know you care about suicide. The thought of losing someone to suicide shakes you to your core. Maybe you have lost someone this way. The horrifying prediction that by 2020, someone will commit suicide every 20 seconds is tragic and rapidly approaching. Don’t normalize suicide; actively work to prevent it from ever happening. Sometimes, the smallest of actions will save a person’s life. That’s much more important than trying to fit into a destructive trend.
Photo: Robin Worrall via Unsplash