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Please Consider This Before Posting a Meme About Suicide

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At least once a day I see some sort of meme posted about how suicide is a long-term solution to a short-term problem. How suicide is selfish. How if we just stopped bullying people, the suicide rate would decrease, or how it will get better if you just try and wait it out. How suicide is a “coward’s way out.” Maybe people think by posting these memes, it might make a difference and save one person’s life.

Each time I read those posts, I think about my son Tom who told us through his writing he struggled with this decision for years, finally not able to see another way out. Tom who never once mentioned he was being bullied, but instead how much he liked his friends and how he wondered if they were too good to be true. Tom who helped take care of me after my back and knee surgeries, who always helped carry in the groceries and who made me belly laugh at least once a day.

These well-intentioned posts become very personal for me very quickly, and I’m not sure everyone who spends 15 seconds cutting and pasting a meme onto their page understands their impact. Every single time I see anything someone posts about suicide, it ties back in my mind to what the person posting must think of my son.

When I see those posts, I hear:

“Tom chose a long-term solution to Tom’s short-term problem.”

“Tom was selfish.”

“Tom would be alive if he hadn’t been bullied.”

“Tom should have just tried a little harder to get through it.”

“Tom was a coward.”

When I read these posts, it breaks my heart because it feels as though you are judging my son, making me want to protect and defend him, even though what happened tore my life apart and crushed my spirit. I am certain my caring and intelligent son would not have taken his life if he had seen another option. I do not consider him to be selfish or cowardly. I have read his words about his struggle and now better know the depth of his despair.

Until you have struggled with a level of anxiety and depression where you yourself have considered suicide, I believe you cannot truly understand. You can sympathize and you can care, but unless you have stood in the bottomless pit of depression, looking up from the dark hole with only an emergency exit sign in view, you cannot truly know what it feels like. I understand the feelings because I have been there. Why I survived and Tom did not, I cannot explain.

But I can tell you, posting a meme is not going to be the difference between life and death. Hopefully, it is a piece in the puzzle of decreasing the stigma of mental illness and allowing a more open conversation about it. But I implore you to consider the tone and the content of what you post on the subject, keeping in mind that your words, or those words you borrow from another, may have an unintended, painful impact.

Knowing the signs of depression and caring enough about others to take action if you have a concern could be the difference. Truly listening to each other and investing time in one-on-one relationships might help. Looking beyond the screen into someone’s eyes and soul could save a life. That being said, I did these things, and my son was still able to mask his feelings in an effort to protect me from his pain. So while I was not able to save him from his long-term and life-ending agony, I am trying to do so through his death.

Please, if you truly want to make a difference, commit to learning depression’s signs and the steps you can take to help someone.

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.

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Lead Thinkstock photo via peshkov.

Originally published: July 27, 2017
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