Suicide is not a joke

“I did so bad on that test, I’m going to kill myself.”

“You should just kill yourself.”

The use of suicidal jokes has become increasingly common among more recent generations, using phrases such as “I’m gonna kill myself” or “kill me now” in every day life and on social media. Despite this, when compared to previous generations, people under the age of twenty-five are disproportionately shown to have experience with suicide, whether it be carrying out the action or struggling with suicidal thoughts. While many understand the weight of suicide, jokes using suicide as the punch line are normalized in a world with suicide rates only increasing. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, there are on average 130 suicides everyday.

These numbers are terrifying, and only growing.

How can we recognize that suicidal jokes have a heavy influence on others, but normalize how common it is for people with more experience with suicidal thoughts to participate in the self-deprecating humor? Suicidal jokes not only come off as negative and deprecatory towards those who have suicidal thoughts or an experience with suicide, but these jokes can also be warning signs for the threat of suicide. Some may use this humor as a cry for help, or as a coping mechanism for harmful thoughts. Thus, the relationship between suicide and humor is quite complex, and remains stigmatized despite the high prevalence of suicide in the United States.

Having recently had a friend commit suicide, this topic has been persistent in my daily thoughts. Thoughts like, “Why didn’t I ask her how she was doing” or “how did I not know” have pushed their way into my life. What her parents said at her funeral have been crucial to my understanding of suicide. By emphasizing the immense loss they are experiencing while simultaneously urging everyone to feel comfortable asking for help. I now notice tendencies I have that may come off as insensitive, including making suicidal jokes and thinking little of their effect on others. But now more than ever, I wish I had never made them.

As suicide jokes remain common, seriously discussing suicide and the importance of getting help remains widely stigmatized. It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to talk to others about mental health. There are always people available to talk to, whether it be at school or through a suicide hotline. In the past month I have heard it repeated over and over that we need to get help, and it needs to be said more. Ask your friends how they’re doing on a deeper level. Talk to those who may seem fine because they may have actually been hurting for years. We need to break down the stigma behind suicide instead of using self-deprecating jokes as a coping mechanism or a call for help. And we need to start with and simply discussing it with others is the best way to start.

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