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9 TV Shows, Books, and Movies That Nail Living With Suicidal Thoughts

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Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

Suicidal ideation is lonely and can feel impossible to talk about; it’s hard to describe if you haven’t been there. I remember being desperate for a character who understood what I was feeling, so they could articulate the words I couldn’t. I found comfort in shared experiences, but it can also be triggering when suicide is depicted in mainstream media. If you’ve dealt with, or currently deal with suicidal ideation, I encourage you to check in with how you’re feeling before engaging with any of the below content. But if you’re looking for a shared experience, I hope you find it here.

1. Book/Movie: “It’s Kind of A Funny Story” by Ned Vizinni

This is my favorite book, because while it’s painfully honest, it’s also funny. The fictional story of a suicidal teen is based on the author’s own stay in a psychiatric hospital. I found so many parallels between my psychiatric stay for suicidal ideation and the character’s. Unfortunately, the author died by suicide years after the book’s release.

2. Book/Movie: “The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

This book, told through a series of letters from the protagonist, depicts suicidal ideation in more implicit ways. Charlie is depressed and dealing with the suicide of his only friend as he enters high school. Near the end of the movie adaptation, Charlie has a mental breakdown with disjointed flashbacks. It’s overwhelming and reminded me of the intense feelings that arise when suicidal ideation is bad – a million things run through your mind so quickly that you can’t make sense of any of them, and you desperately want it to stop.

3. Movie: “Aashiqui 2”

This is the Bollywood adaptation of “A Star Is Born,” about a famous musician who is dealing with suicidal ideation. It just so happened that I saw this movie for the first time when I was dealing with suicidal ideation myself. After an attempt, I tried to use lyrics from songs in the movie to try and explain what I was feeling — I didn’t know how to use my own words, and had to rely on someone else’s. The song discusses the man’s desire for the world to continue when he is gone, and for people to forget about him and keep living when he couldn’t.

It’s easy to be angry with the main character for derailing his own life, and the life of his girlfriend. You wonder why he is such a mess, and pulling her down with him, but that’s an accurate depiction of what can happen when you’re struggling with suicidal ideation. You don’t want to impact anyone else, but it doesn’t always work out that way. I was hurting more than I’d ever hurt in my entire life, but I was also hurting others, and that made my pain that much worse.

4. TV Show: “Feel Good”

In early season 2, a character says “Why do some people need so much help just to exist, and then other people don’t need any help at all?” Dealing with suicidal ideation requires so much help to exist, and you might wonder why it can’t be easy like it seemingly is for everyone else. You see other people moving through life with what seems like no effort, but suicidal ideation makes something as simple as existing seem impossible.

5. Book: “Hello I Want To Die Please Fix Me” by Anna Mehler Paperny

I’ve never been able to finish this book, because it’s scarily accurate in so many parts that I end up putting it down and taking a break. Early on, there’s a line that always stood out: “Loving people so much it hurts doesn’t necessarily negate the need to die; it just makes you hate yourself more for all the pain you cause, makes you feel your death would be a gift.” I’ve heard some people say that suicide is selfish — but when you’re dealing with suicidal ideation, there’s nothing selfish about it. You feel like you’re such a terrible person that it would do everyone a favor. And sometimes knowing you’re loved and that you love others makes it that much harder, because you feel like it’s your fault. In the prologue, Paperny says, “No one wants this crap illness that masquerades as personal failing.” Suicidal ideation can make you feel like you’re a failure.

6. TV Show: “Euphoria”

Rue deals with suicidal ideation throughout the show, which comes to a head when she overdoses. It’s painfully clear she’s so tired of trying to live with the pain she’s experiencing — the grief of losing her father, the roller coaster of addiction she can’t seem to get off of. In a special episode released during the pandemic, she says, “I just don’t really plan on being here that long.” Sometimes suicidal ideation isn’t a fixation with dying, but rather never seeing or building a future for yourself. It took me years before I started to see a future because I truly believed I would never make it past 21 or 25.

7. Poetry Book: “The Nectar Of Pain” by Najwa Zebian

Every poem in this book is focused around one main theme: pain. Feeling pain, not having your pain seen and validated, not allowing yourself to acknowledge your own pain, and ultimately working through pain. Sometimes suicidal ideation is the most painful thing in the world, and other days it’s completely numbing.

8. Poetry Book: “Depression & Other Magic Tricks” by Sabrina Benaim

One of the first poems is a conversation between the author and her mother as she tries to explain her depression. “My depression is a shapeshifter; one day it’s small as a firefly in the palm of a bear, the next it’s a bear.” Part of what makes suicidal ideation so exhausting is that you never know how bad it’s going to be. Will today be manageable? Or will today be the day it’s too much? She goes on to say, “Besides Mom, I’m not afraid of the dark, perhaps that is part of the problem.” And when her mother asks if she’s afraid of dying, she responds, “No, I’m afraid of living.” The scariest thought when I’m feeling suicidal is around having to live like this forever, and that the feelings won’t go away.

9. Poetry Book: “Not Enough, Just Enough” by A.B. Cofer

“I distance myself from everyone I love so it’ll be easier if I decide I can’t stay.” Suicidal ideation can make you push people away, just in case something happens, so that it might hurt them less when you’re gone.

While I take issue with TV shows and movies such as “13 Reasons Why” glamorizing/romanticizing suicide, it’s important to have accurate portrayals done in a meaningful and responsible way. We need to raise awareness, normalize conversations about suicide, and make us feel less alone without triggering intense and overwhelming feelings that can have devastating consequences. If some of this resonated with you, I hope you’re able to talk about those feelings and get support to work through them. I hope you don’t feel alone as I did, or less alone than before. Most importantly, I hope you stay.

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Originally published: July 23, 2022
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