Suicide and Social
This week is National Suicide Prevention Week; an event you might assume has nothing to do with social media.
But sadly, that assumption is wrong.
Suicide and social media go hand-in-hand in many ways…
- On the positive side, social media can be a helpful tool to identify, monitor and reach out to those who are suicidal. (something we have talked about before on this blog.)
- On the negative side, social media can play a role in exacerbating the depression which can lead to suicide.
But I want to talk about a different intersection between suicide and social, one which rarely gets written about in business blogs and is even more pervasive and problematic…
You see, sometimes social media encourages people to commit suicide. And it happens every day.
“Go kill yourself” is the new “screw you.”
Telling people you wish they were dead is not something only Internet trolls or cyber bullies do (although those groups tend to do it most.)
These days people of all walks of life and ages (on all types of social networks, discussion forums, blog comments, etc.) reply to things they dislike by simply saying, “Go kill yourself,” or “Just die already.”
Both of these phrases are dropped as casually as saying, “Shut up,” or “I hate you,” or “I think you’re an idiot;” as if someone’s words and thoughts are so meaningless and trivial that their lives are meaningless and trivial, too.
As someone who spends a lot of time managing a chronic pain resource forum that attracts a lot of very depressed folks, who has known many people who have attempted (and succeeded) at suicide, and who has been suicidal before, I find this trend both extremely offensive and painful.
Words have power.
“But it’s just words,” you might be thinking. “Those people don’t actually mean they want someone dead.”
And you’re right. Most people understand that it’s just a (very crude) form of expression.
But depressed people aren’t “most people.”
A horribly depressed person is looking for a reason why they shouldn’t kill themselves (at the same time they are drowning in a sea of reasons why they should.)
Imagine what it is like for those people to look all day at a feed full of images like the ones I’ve included in this post.
Any bitter words, phrases or comments thrown vehemently at them when they are in this dark place can be the straw that breaks their back and pushes them over the edge.
Words have power.
And a phrase like, “Go kill yourself” — uttered to a person who is trying desperately to keep themselves from doing that very thing — are perhaps the most powerful words of all.
This crap has got to stop.
I don’t understand why people say things like this to anyone (much less to a depressed person) or how to stop them from doing it.
But I thought this week I should at least bring the problem to the attention of people who may not even be aware that it is happening, like…
- The professionals who spend their days in the walled gardens of corporate America.
- The readers who mainly peruse well-moderated blogs and forums.
- The people who do not have exposure to Internet-savvy teens.
The only way I know to change things is to speak about them out loud; to put my foot down and say, “When and where I see something I feel is wrong, I will say something and try to stop it.”
And I will continue to do this when I see people say things like “go kill yourself” online, whether it’s suicide prevention week or not.
But I know that my voice is small. It will need to have many others added to it to ever have a chance of being heard.
Words have power, my friends. I hope you will lend some of yours to the struggling souls who need it most and join me in improving the respect we show others in our digital discourse.
If you feel that life is not worth living, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or visit http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
Thank you for sharing such an important post. I can’t believe people can be so thoughtless. It’s horrible how this has become part of the parlance of social media. I’ve seen it a few times on FB and wonder what on earth people are thinking.
Hello from me and the woofs !
Thanks for stopping in and sharing your thoughts, Jon.
Hugs to you and the woofs! (We’re adding a new little lemon and white one to our family next month. Very excited.)
Thanks for this post Jen. It is painful for me to see others talk this way and to even think about it. I will join you in stepping up for those that are receiving this abuse from others.
I recently lost a dear friend of mine to suicide. He’s not the first and probably won’t be the last, unfortunately. Therefore, this topic hits a tender spot. One thing I think is very important is to make sure to talk to kids about talking to others like this or even making comments about themselves in a similar manor. Often, children don’t realize the impact of their words and it is our job to make sure they know
I’m so sorry to hear about your friend, Will.
I too hope adults take the lead with talking to kids about the words they use. I honestly think that if social media had been around when I was in high school, I wouldn’t have made it.
Hoping all of us can help shift things in a more civil direction.