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21 Phrases Kids Said That Were Code for 'I Want to Die'

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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 741-741.

Growing up, we often aren’t taught about mental illness — and about suicide, we are taught even less. So if you experienced suicidal thoughts as a child, it may have been easy to believe something was wrong with you, when in reality, that couldn’t have been further from the truth. 

Maybe you grew up in a physically or emotionally abusive environment and deep down, believed suicide was the only way to stop the pain. Maybe you covered up suicidal thoughts with looking “fine” and pretending everything was OK. Or maybe you dropped subtle hints to the adults in your life, hoping they would “get it” and step in to help.

No matter what your situation was growing up, the sad truth is there are a lot of reasons a child might use “code words” that really mean “I want to die.” Because of this, it’s important we talk about what kinds of phrases to look out for. Talking about these phrases can help us identify children who are struggling and get them to the resources and support they need. If you or a child you know are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please visit our suicide prevention page to find resources in your area.

To find out what people said as kids when they were feeling suicidal, we asked members of our Mighty community to share one thing they said growing up that was really code for, “I want to die.”

Here’s what they shared with us:

1. “I want to go home.”

“Even if I [was] at home, or what was considered my home, I never felt I belonged there, or anywhere else. I would find myself in a ball, crying, and repeating through tight breaths, ‘I just want to go home.’” — Michele M.

My sister, 13 years old, took her own life on October 21, 2017. When she was a little girl, she would always tell my mom, ‘I want to go home.’ My mom would tell her that we are home, because we’d all be sitting in our own house. And my little sister would shake her head and point to heaven. Pay attention to what your kids say, guys.” — Autumn S.

2. “I don’t know.”

“Saying, ‘I don’t know’ when someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up because I never planned on making it to adulthood.” — Katy N.

“It is actually my earliest memory. I was 4 years old and feeling anxious, though I didn’t understand that at the time. I remember telling my mom, ‘I don’t know how to do this.’ She asked me what I meant and I told her I didn’t know how to live life. I thought I wasn’t suppose to be here. I wanted to go back, (where? I don’t know). I just kept saying, ‘I don’t know how to do life.’” — Barbara L.

3. “What’s the point?”

“’What’s the point?’ meant I’ve fallen in and need a hand.” — Gilly H.

“‘Why does it even matter?’ I’d say this in response to making an effort for things. ‘Why try?’ ‘What’s the point?’ To me, I couldn’t see any value in anything I did. And that can become very dangerous.” — Kacey K.

“In forth grade, I asked my mom if she ever stopped and thought about why we are here. What are we doing? Why do we do things this way? What is the point? Because I felt sad and angry and had no self-esteem, even as a child that young. Constantly embarrassed of myself. I didn’t understand why we are here if this is all life is. Existential crises are hard to understand even now as an adult, let alone at 10 years old.” — Allison J.

4. “I’m tired.”

“‘I’m so tired.’ I would say it all the time. I just didn’t want to be around anymore. I just wanted someone to say it’s OK to go to sleep and not wake up.” — Timoteo M.

“’I’m tired, I want to go to sleep.’ It never meant the literal sense, but I didn’t ever feel brave or safe enough to be frank with anyone. I felt like I’d get in trouble.” — Savannah I.

“People would think I was exhausted from school, but in reality, I was emotionally drained and just wanted to sleep and never wake up.” — Lizzette Z.

5. “I don’t belong here.”

“I used to say, ‘I don’t feel like I belong here,’ thinking it was just alienation, but I realized over time that it carried in all aspects of my life. I just didn’t feel like I was meant to be alive.” — Monica R.

“‘I don’t belong here.’ ‘I’m just so tired.’ ‘The stars feel like family.’ I still have those thoughts, but I’ve got to the point of wanting to live while just not wanting to be here.” — Sydney W.

6. “I’m OK, I guess.”

“When someone asked me how I [was] feeling, I would say, ‘I’m OK I guess.’ No one would ever ask me why I added ‘I guess.’” — Selena S.

7. “I don’t feel good.”

“When I was a child, I would start snuggling near my mom and I would say, ‘I don’t feel good,’ but I couldn’t explain why I was not feeling good.” — Emily B.

8. “I want to be with [deceased loved one].”

“My mum died when I was 11. I’d say, ‘I want to be with Mum.’ The grief was unbearable and I missed her so much. I wanted to take my own life just so I could be with her.” — Emily P.

“‘I just want to sleep’ or ‘I want to see my grandpa’ were two things I said often. “ — Mes B.

9. “I don’t want to grow up.”

“I once said, ‘I don’t want to grow up.’ [My mom] thought I was saying that because I didn’t want to mature. Didn’t want to do ‘big girl things.’ Little did she know, I literally didn’t want to age. I wanted to die.” — Paola A.

10. “I’m fine.”

“When people asked if I was OK, I would say ‘I’m fine, I’m always fine.’ I’d give them my best smile and make myself busy so they don’t pry anymore. Sometimes I would say I’m tired, even though I did sleep for several hours. I would never tell anyone what I was truly thinking or else I would be causing them pain and making them feel the guilt of my decisions.” — Denise H.

11. “I want to sleep forever.”

“My family always joked that I was lazy because I once said I wanted sleep forever until an aunt, I believe, asked why and I said, ‘I don’t want to be awake. I don’t like it.’” — Janine D.

12. “Life is unfair.”

“‘Life is unfair…’ ‘I’m having bad thoughts right now,’ ‘I always screw up…’ Those are just a few of mine I would use.” — Rie L.

13. “I’d rather be…”

“‘I’d rather be a cat than a person.’ To me, that meant I preferred to have not been born at all. I learned to put all things depression lightly with people because I feared their judgment… so I always spun it into something humorous or vague.” — Chloe S.

14. “My home life is really hard.”

“‘My home life is really hard.’ ‘I wish I wasn’t here.’ ‘I feel really alone.’ ‘Life is getting really hard for me.’ I remember saying all of these things as a child, but nobody ever realized how much I was really hurting. My self-harm was taken as an attempt to get attention, when really it was a precursor to multiple suicide attempts at a young age.” — Brooklynn G.

15. “I want to be alone.”

“Code for, ‘I’d rather not have people attached to me in case I end up following through.”— Ryann M.

16. “I don’t want to be here.”

“[Saying this] started at around age 11, it got to a point that it became part of my daily routine. Whenever I would wake up go in the bathroom I’d look in the mirror and say it to myself. Even after I started to improve, it was hard to break that routine of saying it to myself whenever I entered the bathroom.” — Jamie S.

“I would always make jokes about dying or wanting to die. It was easier to joke about it then say that I was struggling. I would also say I don’t want to be here anymore.” — Mahtya M.

17. “I can’t do this.”

“‘I can’t do this,’ ‘Everything is too much.’ Most of the time people would take them literally and focus on the problems I told them about, they didn’t realize I meant life as a whole was too hard/exhausting.” — Kita S.

18. “I wonder what being happy would be like.”

“When friends would say about good feelings and happy things, I’d say things like, ‘Sounds fun. I wonder what that feels like,’ or ‘You’re lucky to get to have that.’” — Tyler J.

19. “When does this end?”

“’When does this end?’ ‘This,’ is often mistaken for a long boring class at school, exams or some activity, but actually meant ‘life.’” — Srishti C.

20. “I want to start over.”

“’I want to start over.’ ‘I’m done.’ Or sometimes, just nothing at all. Watching to confirm if I’d even be missed, waiting in the silence.” — Stephanie M.

21. “I just want to be loved.”

“I’m 33 now, but a lifetime of therapy has made me realize I saw death as the only way to feel loved, because no one ever talked of the dead in anything but glowing terms, and I always felt like my parents showed more love for my dead siblings than me, who happened to be alive.” — Ashley P.

If someone makes a comment you are concerned about, the best thing you can do is ask them directly, “Are you feeling suicidal?” or, “Do you want to live?” Contrary to popular myth, asking this question directly will not encourage a suicide attempt or put the idea in their head. Opening up the conversation in a nonjudgmental way can give them the opportunity to talk about it.

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

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

Getty Images photo via Archv

Originally published: January 9, 2018
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