You've heard it before... "Ugh, I don't want to do this essay, I'm gonna kill myself","Ugh, I wanna jump in front of a bus", or "I just don't wanna be here, someone shoot me". Can we stop and talk about these phrases that were meant to be taken as jokes? Are they really jokes? Have we made it too easy to joke like this?
First, let's assess how you know they are jokes.
What do you do when you hear a friend say something that sounds suicidal? Some people just shrug it off and agree, "Yeah, I don't wanna be here either". These phrases are so overused that we join in on sharing the feeling to comfort the other person, or to relate. Openly relating can be beneficial when you talk deeper about your feelings, and offer help. However, scraping the surface by saying "yeah, me too", may make them feel like you're not serious, and just trying to be relatable. Do not leave them simply with that; take the conversation deeper. You never know if they're subconsciously asking to express themselves. No matter how sure you think you are that someone is joking, you're not.
Could over using the phrase cause more separation?
If it isn't hard enough to get the help you need when feeling suicidal, people may feel even more reluctant to get help if their friends are using the phrase so lightly. If someone pointed out something different about your physical appearance in an indirect way... you would feel like you need to hide that part about yourself. Wouldn't it work the same way with mental illness? Think about what you are saying before you say it. Do you really mean what you are saying when you say things like "I want someone to run me over." Phrases like these have become so loosely used that people immediately react with laughter in response. Could this be a reaction due to not knowing how to react? Do we laugh because we are nervous? Why are we nervous to talk about mental health?
Be aware of your surroundings. Try not to make people feel alienated. Pay attention to how people act, behave, and recognize when things are out of the usual. Practice kindness, and being aware of peoples' feelings when you speak.
Casual Suicidal Thoughts are Real
Casual suicidal-ness is an actual diagnosis. If you often say phrases like these, you should recognize when you actually feel this way, or whether you are genuinely just spitting words out of your backside to make people laugh. By definition, casual suicidal thoughts are thoughts of a person who is suicidal, or have suicidal tendencies without the intent of actually committing suicide. People who are casually suicidal often describe it as not wanting to kill themselves, but not caring about their well-being. Essentially, it is the carelessness of what happens to their own lives. People who experience casual suicidal thoughts should still seek counseling, tell someone, or get help where help is truly given. Though they may not have intent to commit suicide, there is always a chance it could escalate, or other serious unhealthy lifestyle habits could develop.
Does this mean that every one of your friends who slides a suicide joke past you, is suicidal or casually suicidal?
Answer: To be honest, you never know for sure. You can never know who is and who isn't by just having a conversation that scrapes the surface. Never assume that the person is okay, just ask questions. If they wish not to talk about it, let them know you are always willing to talk at anytime. Follow your gut instinct. Tell someone. Ask a friend for advice. Report it to a school counselor. Let the person know about the resources such as a mental health hotline. Hotlines also can refer the person to a counselor in their area. The suicide prevention lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK, and the suicide and crisis hotline is 1-800-999-9999. More hotlines for various different things like domestic abuse, drug and alcohol treatment, child abuse, sexual assault, and more can be found at HealthyPlace.com.
Be Motivated to Fix It
On the flip side, people who are worried about their friends being suicidal or casually suicidal may feel hurt when the person does not react too kindly. Do not get offended if someone laughs in your face, or ignores you after taking them seriously. It's the normal thing to do. When someone says something really sad, and negative about themselves, you're not supposed to ignore it if you care about that person. You're suppose to be concerned, regardless if it is a joke or not. People who make suicidal jokes don't think about what they are saying before they say it, and they are not expecting a serious reaction. People who are actually suicidal may give you subtle signs of which you should still react seriously. Do not get discouraged by people who do not return a kind word back. At least you did not allow it to slip by you. It's good that you do not let someone who is screaming for help go unnoticed. If you are in fact joking (like I said assess yourself first), the best thing you can do is just say "thank you for caring about me, I'm glad that I have a good friend". You are also setting a good example by simply caring, in turn influencing that person to joke less, and carry out the same kindness.
We need more empathetic people in the world, and we need to think before we talk.