Suicide Jokes Aren’t Funny

Margo Williams Walking down the hallways of our school, it’s perceived as perfectly normal to hear students use the the phrases “Kill me now” or “I’m gonna commit” to convey stress or annoyance. These phrases have been normalized to the point that there are even popular acronyms: “kms” for “kill myself”  and “kys” for “kill yourself.” I know first hand how tempting it is to use these phrases casually, and to ignore the danger they possess. However, if you’ve been bingeing on the latest Netflix series, The 13 Reasons Why, like I have, you can no longer use a shield of ignorance as an excuse to continue lightheartedly mentioning suicide. To joke about suicide is similar to joking about Alzheimers or Diabetes in that it’s one of the top ten leading causes of death in the U.S. for all ages. According to the CDC, suicide rates for young adults ages 15-24 have increased by 1.6% between 1999 and 2014. Suicide is a more meaningful topic to more of our friends and peers than we know, and therefore suicide jokes are probably more painful to more people than we would expect. Nobody that has been affected by suicide takes pleasure in discussing the topic, because it’s a hurtful thing. So, instead of making jokes that trivialize suicide and its effects, we, as individuals, have to decide for ourselves whether making a suicide joke is worth potentially hurting the peers around us. As teenagers, we often justify making jokes about suicide by making it obvious the statement holds no value to us; that we don’t really mean the words we’re saying. What is often lost upon people that haven’t ever been affected by suicide is that making a statement that should be reserved for for serious cries of help into a joke cheapens the words and their meaning, diminishing not only suicide as an act, but also the pain that it has leaves those behind with. We are more capable of cutting suicide jokes out of our vernacular than we realize. Normalizing phrases in various communities is a conscious act, and it requires conscious upkeep, too. If you haven’t felt the effects of suicide, it’s likely that you occasionally make suicide jokes with your peers. Do you, however, make jokes with your parents? What about teachers? The answer to is likely no to both of these questions and that’s for a very important reason. In instances where suicide is a real concern, teens today are expected to go to an adult for help. Their peers have removed themselves as an option because they no longer can easily  distinguish the difference between a cry for help and a joke. ]]>