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12 'Harmless Comments' That Actually Hurt People Who Are Passively Suicidal

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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.

As soon as the notion of suicidality comes up in conversation, it’s unfortunately common for those unfamiliar with suicidal thinking to launch into anything from blatant misconceptions to outright dismissal. This includes the assumption that feeling suicidal, or having suicidal thoughts, means you are actively suicidal and have a plan in place.

Perhaps it’s somewhat understandable, at times, if the person to whom you are talking is speaking out of fear. This isn’t always the case, though. There is a gulf of difference between passive and active suicidal thoughts, and “passive” suicidal thoughts can sometimes even be intrusive and unwanted.

The truth is, suicidal ideation is complex, multilayered and never as simple as it’s thought to be. That’s why we asked our mental health community for the so-called “harmless comments” that hurt those who are passively suicidal. Whether you’re the person who experiences suicidal thoughts or you know someone who does, it’s worth knowing the things that hurt and, when you’re finished here, reading what to say instead.

If you’re the person living with these thoughts, you are not alone. It’s OK to feel this way and share the way you feel, so #checkinwithme.

Here’s what our community had to say:

1. “You would have done it already.”

“If you really were suicidal, then you would have done it by now.” — Becky S.

“Next time you’re going to do it, just do it right so you’ll stop worrying everyone.” — Kaleigh A.

“If you say you’re suicidal, it means you’re not. People who really want to die would just do it without telling anyone.” — Nicole L.

“You’ve said that for so long; do it already or stop talking about it.” — Cheri H.

2. “Others have it worse.”

“People have it way worse than you do.” — Macy L.

“‘I know someone who has it way worse than you.’ It is so belittling and makes me feel like my feelings and what I’m going through is completely irrelevant.” — Heather P.

“My life is worse than yours, so shut up! People actually suffer, unlike you, so knock it off.” — Nik I.

3. Suicide is a selfish act.

“The old line that suicide is ‘selfish.’ Anyone who has ever been suicidal or attempted suicide knows, as I did, that when you get to the point of attempting suicide, sometimes you’ve lost 100 percent of your insight and judgment and the only thing you can see is total and complete blackness. At that point, it goes way, way beyond anything like selfishness. It’s out of your control.” — Diane M.

“Most often, the one I get when I try to tell someone is, ‘Do you know how much that hurts me?’ As if me being suicidal is an insult to them.” — Sienna S.

“I’ve never even thought of it that way, as it ‘hurting’ me. I have been passively suicidal since I was a child. Probably 8 or 10 years old. I have only made one active attempt. But when it comes to things that others say, I hate hearing that it’s selfish, because I know from experience: In that moment, you believe everyone would be better off without you, that you are a burden. That it wouldn’t be a negative effect on your friends and family. It’s not selfish… sometimes, it’s the only way out that can be seen.” — Rachel R.

“I told my doctor I’d spent all night awake, thinking about suicide. She asked me what went through my head that meant I didn’t go any further. ‘I felt selfish,’ I said. She said, ‘Yes, good.’ I felt so hopeless.” — Elliot B.

4. “Don’t talk about that.”

“‘Don’t say that.’ It completely negates my own experience because it’s uncomfortable for others to face, as if not talking about it means those thoughts don’t exist.” — Leiba R.

“That all your drama is weighing other people down, and to move on because it’s too much to deal with. Um… that’s part of why I want to just vanish.” — Sarah K.

“‘You should keep it to yourself; I’m sure your kids are acting out because they can sense something is wrong with their mother’ — it still crushes me, this comment from an adult family member made with a ‘snap out of it’ attitude. Maybe kids are kids; I hide so much of myself to keep them protected and now I have to hide more of myself because the judgments don’t stop.” — Angelique C.

5. “Are you really going to do it?”

“This may sound harsh, but asking if I plan on hurting myself. Passive suicidal thoughts come and go. If I am sharing them with you, it’s not because I am going to take action or because I need you to save me. Sometimes, its just nice to say it aloud, so it’s not quite so noisy in my own head.” — Ciara S.

“Why should I take you seriously this time?” — Alyssa C.

6. “Everyone feels that way.”

“‘Everyone has depression, everyone has anxiety.’ Um, no they don’t…” — Brittany R.

“Everyone gets depressed. You don’t need to go to counseling; I never did.” — Ashley S.

“‘You’re not the only one who has wanted to die.’ Such a gross misunderstanding of being suicidal that leads to me desperately wanting to explain myself, yet knowing I don’t have to explain my death wishes to anyone, especially someone who wants to try to minimize my pain because they haven’t dealt with their own.” — Stefanie K.

7. “Things will get better.”

“‘Things will get better.’ It doesn’t matter if things get better. My anxiety and depression always follow.” — Leea M.

“How would you feel if you died, everything in your life got better tomorrow and you just didn’t wait long enough?’ Thanks, but I’m not sure they’ll have the scientific breakthrough and be able to get me into the doctor’s office to rewire my brain so I don’t have bipolar disorder NOS by tomorrow. But, uh, thanks for thinking that my diseases are caused and controlled by my life circumstances.” — Chaplin L.

8. “Doing other things will help.”

“Just get over it, or get a job. Find a hobby.” — Diane G.

“You need to get out more. Have you thought about getting a job or hobby to keep your mind busy?” — Amina C.

“‘Have you tried working out? It always puts me in a better mood.’ Yes, but the thoughts overtake the motivation and energy.” — Megan S.

“A lady from the NHS Crisis Team here in Northern Ireland told me I should, ‘Watch a nice movie or listen to some music,’ when I was in the height of a suicidal episode. She told me it’d help distract my mind. Needless to say, I did not take this advice. I was instead taken to hospital where I was berated for self-harming. Following that, I was later called a ‘burden’ by a social worker. All in all, it wasn’t the best experience I’ve had, but sadly a very common one.” — Autumn A.

9. “Are you taking your medication?”

“‘Are you taking your meds?’ It infuriates me when people ask me that. Yes, I am. Yes, I still think about dying. Yes, I still hate myself. But thanks for asking!” — Heather W.

“When they ask if I’m still taking my medication. My medication doesn’t make my brain magically shut off intrusive thoughts, not to mention my medication isn’t a concern for anyone but me and my doctor.” — Jamilyn C.

10. “Why are you not in the hospital?”

“They ask why you were let out of the hospital if you’re still having those thoughts. They say you relapse every few months because you’re unhappy and you should just live in the hospital until you become happy. Like it’s that easy. It’s ignorant and makes me feel like even more of a burden to the people around me.” — Kathrine E.

“‘You need to go to the hospital right now!’ Sometimes, going inpatient won’t really help. If I’m not in danger, don’t tell me this. Just because I want to be dead doesn’t mean I have plans to do it, and ripping me from the security nets I’ve carefully built might do more harm than good.” — Tia M.

11. “How dare you.”

“‘How dare you.’ How dare I? How dare I feel like I don’t want to be here anymore? How dare you for only thinking of your own feelings. They obviously have no idea what my mind does to me. The pain and anxiety and depression and passive thoughts that I feel I have no control over are apparently considered as me making a bad choice to think that way. I never want to actually die; I know what I have to live for. Stop being selfish and give me positive vibes and kind words instead of accusing me of hurting your feelings with my mental illness.” — Katie V.

12. “Have you tried positive thinking?”

“‘Try to be more positive. You know the old saying, fake it ’til you make it. It really helps if you let it.’ I fake it every single day. I’ve been faking it for years and years. I’ve still not made it. I put a positive spin on everything. Suicidal thoughts are still there.” — Heather F.

“You’re just too negative. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, you know. If you think bad things, bad things will happen to you.” — Anindita G.

“‘Why? Just be happy.’ That never helps and just reinforces how inadequate I feel.” — Tiffany D.

What’s one thing you wish someone would tell you when you’re struggling with passive suicidal thoughts? Tell us in the comments below:

Photo by pawel szvmanski on Unsplash


Originally published: November 19, 2018
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