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Viewpoint: Watching what you say

BY ALLISON LEITCH

Published February 20, 2014

It’s likely that the majority of us will go through life without ever seeing a person die. Most of us will not watch that last breath, see that last look, feel a hand transition from warm to cold or hear a heart rate monitor go from a steady beep to the lifeless flat line. What most of us will hear, however, is someone colloquially using the phrase “I’m going kill myself” or “Kill me now.” I live in a house of 12 twenty-something girls with synced cycles, exam schedules and social lives. The things that we would “kill ourselves” over range from not getting a piece of bacon on a hungover morning to two exams in a 24-hour period to being locked out of our house for, god forbid, 20 minutes. Believe me, I am guilty of using this phrase in every single inappropriate manner you could imagine. And I don’t know why nobody has told me to shut the hell up yet. It is ignorant, and it is offensive.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 38,364 lives were lost to suicide in the United States in 2010. This means that a suicide occurred every 13.7 minutes, making suicide the 10th-leading cause of death in America.

If you take any other top-10 killer of Americans and treat it the same way people treat this phrase, you would probably receive a well-deserved punch to the face.

Two exams tomorrow? “Ugh, give me cancer.”
No bacon to cure your hangover? “AIDS me, please.”

Death is not a joke. Depression is not informal. Every time you say “I’m gonna kill myself” in a casual manner, you may be twisting the knife in someone’s depression. What this doesn’t mean is that things cannot be terrible, and you can’t complain, but it means that lightheartedly threatening to kill yourself is absolutely, always, without a doubt, inappropriate. By doing so, you make light of someone’s disease; and you contribute to the stigma.

Mental health is severely stigmatized in our society. If double texting someone makes you “crazy” in our culture, then imagine the labels someone would get for revealing they are stuck in a dark place. Eighty percent of the people who seek treatment for depression are treated successfully. Society needs to make them proud to be brave enough and strong enough to seek treatment, and to eradicate the shame that comes with this disease. There is no shame in cancer, heart disease or stroke, and depression and suicidal thoughts should be treated equally.

So the next time you put your first two fingers together and pull that pretend trigger next to your head, think about who may be standing next to you. May it be a suicide survivor, depression warrior or grieving family member, there is no doubt that you are throwing logs into the stigma fire.

Allison Leitch is an LSA senior.