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What You Should Think About Before You Joke About Suicide

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This blog title is deep and may even elicit a response like, “Why would someone joke about suicide?” I want you to take a minute, think, scroll your news feeds on social media and let me know if you see any suicidal statements. Still nothing coming to mind? Have you ever seen the gun emoji aimed at someone’s head? Have you heard anyone say, “I would just kill myself?” Those are some brief examples.

During the holidays, I overheard a conversation where someone was irritated about having to spend time with their in-laws. Following were a multitude of graphic, suicidal statements to emphasize frustration regarding the situation. I also see that emoji combination come across my Facebook newsfeed daily to emphasize aggravation or irritation. I may not have been so sensitive to it in the past, but last May, I lost someone very dear to me by suicide. Before that, I spent three years working at a crisis hotline with the goal of saving people’s lives who are contemplating suicide. These statements may be made in passing, as a joke or to add significance to a situation, but the reality is suicide is not a joke.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention completed a study for 2015 indicating that 117 people die by suicide every day. Also, for every completion, there are 25 attempts. Pause for a moment and think about how many people each day feel death is the only option in their life. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention also reports statistics that almost 50 percent of those suicides are completed with a firearm. Does that create pause when you see that emoji?

These statistics indicate there is a high chance people around you each day have been impacted by suicide. So, why don’t you know about it? Unfortunately, mental health and suicide are topics people do not like to talk about. There seems to be a fear if we talk about it, then maybe we will “catch it.”

The reality is, without talking about it, it may happen in your life. Individuals and families can not and will not be saved by staying quiet. Joking about it does not solve problems. If anything, it takes away from the severity of the problem. Cancer is not funny, neither are terrorist attacks, terminal illnesses or accidental deaths. These are things society acknowledges as serious. Why is death because of mental illness different?

Those 117 families that receive those phone calls, find their family members or have the police waiting for them at work will tell you it is not a joke. Please, think about others around you next time you post on social media or make jokes. Remember, you never know who can hear what you say or will see what you’re posting.

Image via Thinkstock

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: August 26, 2016
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