17 'Harmless Comments' That Actually Hurt People Who Are Suicidal
Supporting someone who’s struggling with suicidal thoughts can be difficult. There aren’t always the perfect words to make it better. In fact, most of the time there aren’t perfect words that will make it better, and we can only do the best we can to support our loved ones work through dark moments.
That being said — there are certainly things people who are suicidal don’t want to hear. While some comments are obviously cruel, others might come from a place of “tough love.” Some people might actually think they’re being helpful, when in reality, their comment hurts, pushing someone struggling with suicidal thoughts even deeper into isolation.
To find out some “harmless” comments that ended up hurting people who were suicidal, we turned to our mental health community. If you’ve said any of these comments to someone who was struggling with suicidal thoughts, we hope you see this as a learning opportunity. We’re all only doing the best we can, and the more we listen to people who’ve been there, the more we can support our loved ones.
Here’s what our community shared with us:
1. “If you really wanted to die you wouldn’t tell anyone, you’d just do it.”
“It makes me feel like I can’t ask for help when I’m suicidal because I’ll just get pushed aside because no one will believe me or will think I’m overreacting.” — Caitlin T.
“‘If you were really suicidal, you’d have done something about it by now.’ People who haven’t been in that situation will never understand the panic you feel in that moment. I still struggle with suicidal thoughts and self-harm, but I feel like I can’t reach out or ask for help because it’s just dismissed — I’m still here, so that must mean I’m not ‘really’ suicidal.” — Hazel K.
2. “Suicide doesn’t end the pain. It just passes it on to someone else.”
“It makes me feel so guilty each time I read it, it makes my heart sink, hurt and feel less worthy of a person. While I still struggle to fight the battle in my head.” — Tatauq M.
“If I’m at this low of a low, guilting me into staying alive isn’t going to work, all it ever did was make me feel worse and like a horrible, selfish person. But as someone who is missing a loved one from their suicide, I would want her to know that I don’t feel any anger or that amount of pain towards her as the saying states. Just sadness.” — Lydia D.
“‘You aren’t ending the pain you’re just passing it to someone else.’ It may sound profound to others who aren’t struggling, but this hurts so much when you’re in a dark place. I’m already feeling guilt just for being alive, this just makes me feel so much worse. It makes me feel like either way I’m going to hurt everyone, so why not just make it quick so everyone can move on?” — Chris W.
3. “I thought you grew out of this?”
“’You’re almost 18, it’s time to grow out of this now.’ I can’t just grow out of my mental illness. I’ve been struggling and suicidal since third grade, age has nothing to do with it.” — Ari R.
“’You’re 28 now and you’re still carrying on with this nonsense?’ A close family friend, who I saw as an Aunty, said this to me two years ago and after that conversation, I haven’t spoken another word to her. I have made tough decisions over the last few years to remove toxic people from my life and try to not buy into where other people think I should be at this stage in my life. My mental health journey has been a roller coaster which has become more difficult as I’ve gotten older, but I’m more aware now of just how hard I need to keep fighting for myself.” — Stef C.
4. “Your faith needs to be stronger.”
“’Your faith needs to be stronger. You aren’t praying enough.’ It just adds to the feelings that I’m not doing enough, I’m not good enough… I’m not a strong ‘Christian.’” — Rhonda M.
5. “Other people have it worse than you.”
“Other people got it worse. It hurts in every possible context. Pain is a subjective thing and comparing it isn’t helping anyone.” — Anki L
“‘Others have it tougher than you; be grateful to still be alive.’ Honestly, this one’s obviously hurtful. Everyone goes through hard things in their life and it may impact others harder than it does you. Don’t disregard their feelings based on what you feel.” — Jasmine P.
6. “But you seen fine!”
“I hide it because I don’t want to burden anyone with my problems. But it does not mean I’m not genuinely struggling with my mind and fighting to stay alive.” — Jacqueline W.
“‘You’re fine.’ It hurts because I’m not fine and I’ve tried to tell/show them. This is just so invalidating it makes the pain so much worse. The next time I’m feeling low, I then keep it to myself — which can be dangerous.” — Stephanie R.
“‘But you look/seem/were so good today! It can’t be that bad.’ I just told you I’m feeling suicidal/depressed/tired of trying. Now you’re saying that I’m wrong about how I’m feeling and that I looked worse yesterday/before.” — Allie H.
7. “Suicide is selfish.”
“That dying by suicide is ‘selfish.’ When someone has severe mental illness and is so miserable they feel like the only option is to end their life, do you really think they should be thinking about you? Way to make their illness about you by calling them selfish. And chances are, they’ve considered how you’re going to feel when they’re gone. Chances are they’ve cried about it and feel guilty, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re suffering.” — Rachel E.
“‘You’re being selfish! How do you think I feel?’ Do you think I haven’t thought about it? Do you honestly just believe this is because I’m sad and not because I feel like an absolute burden to everyone around me. I thought I’d be doing you a favor. That was the summer before grade nine, I’m start my second day of grade 12 today.” — Juniper R.
“‘Suicide is selfish.’ Stated by an NCO while our platoon had a meeting to reach out in suicide awareness. That summer, five people died on post from suicide, many more attempted. Our post was the highest for suicides and suicide attempts that year. Not even three months later I was in the hospital from my attempt.” — LizMarie P.
8. “Suicide is the easy way out.”
“‘Suicide is just an easy way to leave.’ No, it’s hard. It’s hard to be in pain every day from my depression, borderline personality disorder (BPD), schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. I have two kids that depend on me, but I constantly feel like a failure and that they would be better off without me. I’m not a fun mom, I’m not the mom that takes them to the park every day after school. It’s hard knowing I’m never going to be enough for my family. It’s hard knowing they would be better off without someone as screwed up as me. Suicide is not the easy way out, it’s a hard choice to end the pain and suffering you don’t know I have.” — Kara R.
9. “Haven’t you thought about how everyone else would feel?”
“’Have you not thought how everyone else would feel?’ Said by a triage nurse when I was taken to hospital for an attempt. Yes, the thought of me hurting other people plagues my head, yet so does the fear that my existence itself hurts those around me… Of course I’ve thought about how my parents and friends [would feel].” — Abby A.
10. “What do you have to feel suicidal about?”
“’What do you have to feel suicidal about?’ If I knew the answer to that, or even how to solve those feelings, I probably wouldn’t be suicidal.” — Isabella M.
11. “But you have so much going for you!”
“‘You have so much going for you! You’re such a great person!’ What people fail to realize is that when I hear that, it makes me feel guilty for feeling this way and just makes the depression even worse, because I can’t get it together and appreciate what I have. It’s not like I don’t know that I have a good life. My brain is telling me I don’t deserve it.” — Allie S.
12. “Think about your family.”
“‘Don’t you realize what that would do to your family?’ This hurts because it makes me feel even more guilty over the fact that their love isn’t enough to make me want to keep living. It hurts also because it implies that I’m being selfish, even though my dark thoughts torment me constantly that all I ever feel is pain; that I should choose to live in pain rather than ‘hurt’ my loved ones.” — Amanda W.
“‘Don’t you love your family? Think of what you’re putting them through.’ From a mental health professional who really didn’t understand that I was suicidal because of everything I’ve put my family through, and I wanted it to stop.” —Sophie E.
13. “You’re just doing this for attention.”
“’You’re attention-seeking.’ These type of comments hurt my feelings because it’s highly insensitive. You would think the people closest to you, who you trust with your feelings, would be more understanding and supportive. It just made me feel even more alone.” — Chloe L.
“‘You are never going to get through with it. You are just saying this to get attention.’ It hurt because it’s already hard sharing your dark thoughts with someone and listening to this makes it even harder.” — Unsa A.
14. “No one is going to love you if you don’t love yourself first.”
“‘No one is going to love you if you don’t love yourself first.’ My brand of depression carries a lot of self-loathing, so most days it’s literally impossible to love myself. I know they meant well, wanted to express I should love myself, but it really just comes off as if I don’t deserve love because of how my illness affects me.” — Nicole L.
15. “I didn’t raise a quitter.”
“When I said I didn’t want to live any more, my mom said, ‘I didn’t raise a quitter.’ At the time, I just let it pass because I realized she didn’t understand what I was going through. Ten years later, she attempted suicide. It was difficult to move past that because of her earlier criticism. We’re working on it.” — Lisa H.
16. Unsupportive threats to call the police/send someone to a hospital.
“‘Keep talking like that and I’ll call 911.’ In my experience, if you call 911 when a person confides in you that they are thinking about suicide, here’s what happens: A couple officers and an ambulance arrive. The officers sometimes even cuff you. The whole experience left me more convinced I wanted to die, not less. If someone calls you and tells you they are thinking about suicide. Say this: ‘I’ll be right over. Just hold on til I get there.’” — Kitty C.
“‘I will just have you committed.’ It made me feel like even more of a burden, like I was even more messed up than I already thought. Like it would take too much effort from my mom to try and help me so she was just gonna shove me in a mental hospital. In hindsight, I probably should have been in one, but…” — Alyssa P.
“‘Do you want to be Baker Acted again and not be with the kids for three days?’ That was family talking to me. It did not help, all it did was scare me and make me more suicidal, thinking that maybe they would be better off without me.” — Kelly S.
“Nothing. No words at all is just as harmful as saying something insensitive. Maybe it’s awkward for others to think of the right words, but think how it feels to be so desperate for love that you reach out for help and are met with absolute silence.” — Amanda E.
If you want to support a loved one who’s struggling with suicidal thoughts, but don’t know how, check out the pieces below: