I get the need to exaggerate for dramatic effect – I’ve done it myself before – but it just hit me how much of a problem this is.
“…I’ll throw myself in front of a bus”
“…I want to die”
Out of context, those phrases are really worrying. They were intended to demonstrate how embarrassed or stressed the person is, but there are so many other ways that they could have conveyed that. I understand that it is not in a malicious way but it has such negative effects.
According to a recent study, more than half of Americans know someone who has committed suicide, so joking about killing yourself is extremely insensitive and could bring up painful memories for more people than you would think. So before you make an inappropriate comment to your coworkers, take a second to reword what you are wanting to express. Don’t be inconsiderate of other people’s experiences.
Another major problem with people joking about suicide flippantly, is that people who are genuinely feeling suicidal make jokes to try and reach out for attention get ignored. If everyone is joking about this horrendous feeling, then you won’t know how to distinguish the people who are asking for help from those who are just kidding. “Research indicates that up to 80% of suicidal people signal their intentions to others, in the hope that the signal will be recognized as a cry for help. These signals often include making a joke or threat about suicide, or making a reference to being dead.”* Joking about suicide belittles it and normalises these phrases which should be red flags.
If someone confides in you that they are suicidal do not gloss over it as if it is an exaggeration – it needs to be taken seriously – if you don’t react appropriately the person will think you don’t care about them (worsening how they feel). You might think they are kidding, due to this being a common joke, but don’t let it go, take it further to check that they are okay and get help for them if it’s required. So next time someone jokes about suicide, even if you think they don’t mean it, take it seriously and if they were just being hyperbolic then refer them to this post.
Lastly, if you feel like dying is the only way to end the pain you are living in, which is a horrendous thing to think, then you will not want it to be brought up in small talk. You will not want your suffering to be laughed at or used as a way for someone to get attention. Suicide is never the only option – it should not even be considered as one. If you need help, there are plenty of resources available, there are lots of free suicide hotlines.
Suicide doesn’t end the pain. It just passes it on to someone else.