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Why 'Shoot Me Now' Should Be Thrown Out of Our Vocabulary

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People throw around the words flippantly.

“I have to work with that person again tomorrow. Just shoot me now.”

“Kill me now! I have so much to get done in the next two weeks, it’s unbelievable.”

And then there’s the gesture. The hand formed like a gun, held up to one’s own head. The rolling of the eyes as the imaginary gun is fired. It’s supposed to be a joke, but it isn’t funny.

It’s an imaginary gun, but it causes real pain.

As someone who fought suicidal thoughts for years, there is nothing funny or lighthearted about these comments. For those of us who experience depression and suicidal thoughts, sometimes simply the mention of suicide (even in jest) can be triggering. We get stuck on that one phrase, that one gesture, and our brains wander far from the conversation as we get lost in our own thoughts: the drowning in emotional pain, the desire to die and the floundering as we try to resurface and find hope.

For years every time I saw someone’s gun-shaped hand move toward their head, I had to look away. That hand gesture, those “shoot me now” words, were like a giant hand pushing me down into icy cold water of despair and holding me there, mocking me.

Over the years, I bit my tongue and held my words of protest when people carelessly talked about suicide. I was afraid if I spoke up they would label me as a party pooper, and I was even more afraid I would have to admit I struggled with depression. I thought I was overreacting and that my overreaction signified something wrong with me.

But today I know better. I’m on the other side of the battle with feeling suicidal, but every time I hear someone throw around the words “just shoot me now,” I am still affected in a deep way. 

Because talking about death and suicide offhandedly isn’t funny. It’s offensive, and it’s harmful. My reaction to these “jokes” doesn’t mean something’s wrong with me; it means something’s wrong with our vocabulary.

I know those who use these words and gestures don’t intend to hurt people with depression. They probably have no idea how much weight their words hold. That’s why I’m finally speaking up. People need to know. They need to know how small and insecure jokes about suicide make others feel, how they start a shame cascade because even though it’s a joke for you, it’s our deepest struggle. 

So now you know. Now you know how much weight some words and phrases and gestures carry. These things shouldn’t be thrown around carelessly; the only place they should be thrown is out of our vocabulary completely. 

Change your words and tell others too — because chances are someone is being hurt by their words and may just be in too much pain to speak up.

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Originally published: April 15, 2016
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