There’s no humour in suicide jokes

“I want to die”: four words that should alarm their listener. Four words that should cause your heart to drop, your stomach to flip and your eyes to widen to the size of Ferris wheels. Four words that a few years ago were rarely muttered except by a hurting few in the darkest of places. Yet, today these four words are common. Four words that litter the hallways, classrooms, residences, and libraries of university campuses.

We wish death upon ourselves constantly. How utterly messed up is that? Have you ever stopped to think about it? Here we are sitting in a nice safe residence, going to a reputable, safe school, surrounded by support, friends, and family. Yet to publicly announce a death wish is viewed as completely normal. Does nobody else see a problem with this?

When did we allow our generation to become so de-sensitized to the idea of death? We laugh at what should be a distressing statement and agree as if we were adjudicating the most recent episode of “The Simpsons”. We don’t flinch while the notion of suicide is casually thrown towards our dormant smiles. How did we let this become okay?  

This is a serious and complex topic and finding a student willing to honestly address it proved challenging. When confronted with this matter, one student expressed his concerns: “I think it’s important to not say it because it perpetuates the idea that self-harm is something to be joked about. Though the person saying it may not be directly affected by those words, someone who is experiencing depressive thoughts and emotions may be impacted more than we can see.”

I cannot sit here and claim that I have never muttered those four words as I exited a lecture hall after a brutal test or an especially long slideshow. But I am able to openly admit that this thought process is horrible.  

Our generation has been living through an increasingly interesting time. With the collapse of many governments, encouraged racism in the United States, the possible threat of nuclear war and the inevitable doom of our natural planet at our hands, millennials have had a lot thrown onto our plate. Yet after helplessly watching all of these phenomena unfold, we, as a generation, have learned it is necessary to refuse to accept the long forced silence that our predecessors welcomed in the face of turmoil. In this refusal, we created movements like Black Lives Matter, #Metoo and the March for Our Lives. We have also pushed for the world to see mental illness and suicide as the valid and distressing realities they are.

It seems that now we are moving backward. We must not normalize the type of dialogue that presents suicide as a regular hope or wish. We must not treat the notion of shooting ourselves as a joke when 154 school shootings happened in the last school year alone down in the United States. We must leave sentences and phrases mentioned previously by the humans who will regretfully experience a form of agony, real enough to cause them to think those four words or even say them. How dare we take those words away from a person in need of help and use them for a cheap laugh or a quick re-tweet?

Are we really ungrateful enough in our own lives that any minor inconvenience could result in a death wish? Mental health and teen suicide are serious things – which I am sure you don’t need me to remind you of.  

So I implore this campus to stop joking about death and suicide and leave those life-changing phrases for those moments where our fellow humans actually need help. Death isn’t funny, suicide isn’t a joke. Four words can change the path of a life, but removing them from your daily vocabulary won’t take all of a minute of yours.

Student Wellness Centre: 519-756-8228 x5803

Good2Talk: 1-866-925-5454

Here24/7: 1-844-437-3247

Brantford General Hospital: 519-751-5544

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