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Why You Shouldn't Say Someone Is 'Threatening Suicide'

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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.

There are many mental health phrases that I won’t use, mostly because some phrases are used to shame, stigmatize and/or dismiss certain people with mental illness. Some phrases are technically applicable to many but only used against some. I won’t support that.

One of the phrases I detest is “threatening suicide.” For some people with mental illness, the term “suicidal” or “suicidal ideation” might be used. Other people get stuck with “threatening suicide.” In my experience, these are often patients that the health care system either doesn’t know how to treat or doesn’t want to treat. Either way, it’s not right.

If I’m feeling suicidal or share suicidal thoughts, I’m reaching out. I’m reaching out and asking for help. I’m not “threatening suicide.” I’m not making “threats.” I’m not being abusive, manipulative or breaking the law. I’m sharing my thoughts and feelings with the hope of resolving or at least addressing these thoughts and feelings. Why is there the need to add shame? Stigma? Make it sound like or at least make me feel like a criminal?

If a suicidal person, or a person struggling with suicidal thoughts, knows that they are going to be labeled as “threatening suicide,” are they likely to reach out for help? No. No one wants to share such dark, painful thoughts and feelings just to have people turn on them and be labeled as making “threats,” or in my case receiving the added label of “making a false report.”

Words matter. They matter a lot. When are we going to address the discourse around mental health within the mental health sector? We need to lose these phrases. They are not helpful and they are used as weapons. Even if, in your mind, someone did “threaten suicide,” is it worth putting off thousands of other people from seeking help? How many people are we losing each year due to terminology like this? Even if, in your mind, someone did “threaten suicide,” doesn’t that indicate that they need help? And yes, I do mean help, not punishment disguised as help, regardless of how annoying you find it. Someone who doesn’t need help wouldn’t “threaten suicide.” We don’t “threaten suicide,” we share suicidal thoughts.

Photo by Ronny Sison on Unsplash

Originally published: July 12, 2021
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