When People Think You Are 'Too Pretty' to Be Suicidal
When someone first finds out I have serious mental illness and am suicidal, the responses I get are almost always the same. One of the first comments I hear is related to my physical appearance including, “but you are so pretty,” “you have such a beautiful smile though,” and “how could someone that looks like you be suicidal?” I am here to tell you mental illness and experiencing suicidal thoughts does not have a “look” and those feelings have nothing to do with your physical appearance. Although these individuals have good intentions with their comments, these can actually be extremely degrading, harmful and invalidating. These types of comments make me question myself and make me hate myself even more for being suicidal. I get overwhelmed by this incredible guilt that I should not be suicidal because that is the feedback I am getting. People are always surprised “someone like me” could be suicidal and I have never really understand what they mean.
I am not writing this to criticize how people respond to my suicidality, but instead I am expressing how important it is for us to remember mental illness can affect anyone. Mental illness does not pick who it will affect based on physical appearance or any other factors. The truth is mental illness affects many people of all different appearances and the impact this has on them can be unimaginable. I can understand why it is hard to grasp that someone would be suicidal but it is confusing to me why people think my physical appearance is enough to make me want to live… if only it were that easy.
In January, I attempted suicide and as I walked into the emergency room, I was feeling a million emotions but mainly confused. As I told the woman at the desk that I took a lot of pills in an attempt to kill myself, she responded with, “Aww… but you’re so pretty sweetie.” Recently I was sharing in a group therapy session how I was suicidal and a group member said it would be such a waste because I am so gorgeous. I do not think there is a “right” way to respond to someone being suicidal but any comment that may invalidate the person’s feelings and make them feel ashamed should always be avoided.
When comments are made and people are shocked by my mental illness and the severity it makes me feel guilty and question how I could be bipolar and suicidal when I am in graduate school and have achieved many of my goals in life so far. The problem is suicidality can take over your life and make you believe you deserve to die. When suicidality takes over everything else feels like it is erased. Trying to see the positive when you are in such a dark place and feeling so hopeless is near impossible.
If someone tells you they are suicidal I hope you are able to ask them how you can help instead of making comments that may be invalidating and harmful. I also hope you remember that just because someone is pretty does not mean they are perfect or even happy. To be safe, never make any assumptions about someone and their mental illness. Instead of assuming, talk to the individual as they are the one who knows themselves best and you will then learn how to help them better. Do not degrade the individual yet empower them.
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