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4 Reasons It's Worth Being 'Politically Correct' When Talking About Suicide

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“They should just kill themselves.” “I’d kill myself first.” “I guess I’m just gonna go kill myself then.” “If you do that, then you should just kill yourself.”

Over the past few months, I have read or heard each of those statements, or several variations, thoughtlessly mentioning suicide on social media and in informal conversations. I have been digesting the use of this common and popular idiom while not wanting my sensitivity to the subject to affect my gut reaction, which is to demand political correctness.

Before my brother’s suicide, I don’t think I noticed these statements. In fact, I might have even agreed with, laughed at it or said something similar. But when you know better, you do better. Helping others to understand these statements are actually harmful to society is better than not speaking up at all.

Here’s why:

1. Mentioning suicide flippantly diminishes the grief of families who’ve lost someone to suicide.

Every time I see or hear one of these comments, I cringe. Some topics, like suicide, do demand political correctness and sensitivity.

2. Suggesting someone should die by suicide is cruel to the person — and his or her loved ones.

One poster on a popular social media website disagreed with a political figure’s beliefs. I did too, but that person has a family and his or her family would be heartbroken and struggling for years if they were to lose someone to suicide. These type of comments have a ripple effect.

3. Vitriolic comments about suicide, like some made online, make it assessable to hide behind your computer screen while spreading negativity.

If a person is not in front of you, then it’s easy to lack empathy and set a poor example with your comments. It’s also damaging to the balance of positive and negative relationships among society members.

4. Lastly and most importantly, using these statements frivolously makes it difficult to identify actual cries for help.

If true victims of suicidal thoughts make a statement about suicide, it is impossible to distinguish it from statements meant to be funny or dramatic for effect.

While I’d love to hand a print out of the detailed reasons to anyone who says or writes a nonchalant statement referring to suicide, I have found it sufficient to respond with, “Suicide is nothing to joke about.” Most people are contrite, especially if they know my experience with this topic. Acknowledging the misstep is the first step in educating others, who are simply unaware of the consequences to a familiar but dangerous idiom.

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

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

Originally published: July 28, 2016
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