Suicide jokes are a perfectly healthy coping mechanism
As a coping mechanism, suicide jokes function similarly to general morbid humor. Unfortunately, they’re easy to overdo, and it’s important to regulate their use heavily depending on the context. However, if used carefully and responsibly, they prove effective to depressed and suicidal teenagers, and it would be remiss to deny them their coping mechanisms.
The main problem with suicide jokes is that they’re potentially damaging to those who hear them. Overhearing someone sarcastically advocate suicide or self-harm can be triggering to those struggling with the issues themselves. That’s why it’s so important to be careful and only use suicide jokes when it’s appropriate.
Truthfully, suicide jokes should only ever be used around people who are immune to such triggers. Even then, excessive use can be cause for concern, and, like many coping mechanisms, suicide jokes are prone to being used mockingly by perfectly mentally healthy teenagers who just want to poke a joke at others’ expense.
With that said, there’s a reason that morbid humor and suicide jokes have become so common, and that’s because they work. For many, voicing extremely serious thoughts aloud, but in a somewhat facetious manner, helps to alleviate the very real sting of those thoughts. It’s a bit like cleaning out a closet: to get rid of the bad thoughts, it’s necessary to throw them out somewhere. In a roundabout way, the albeit macabre sense of amusement produced by these jokes purges the dangerous thoughts before they can take root.
The “humor” of these jokes isn’t just a matter of taking things too lightly, either. For people with intrusive thoughts, especially of suicide or self-harm, acknowledging how nonsensical these thoughts are is often the first step to dispelling them. This tends to manifest itself as a certain type of morbid humor: namely, poking fun at oneself for having such ridiculous ideas. While this can be damaging if overused, like any form of self-deprecation, it’s also a very important step towards recovery.
Although it’s important to acknowledge the potential consequences of suicide jokes, especially if they go unchecked, I think it’s equally important to acknowledge just how helpful they can be to real-life teenagers who suffer from suicidal thoughts. Yes, it’s dangerous to constantly joke about self-harm, but it can be equally dangerous to keep all those thoughts bottled up until actual self-harm seems like the only outlet.
by Madeline Koneska
Suicide jokes are not a joking matter
Suicide jokes are a touchy subject, to say the least. The use of them in generic conversation is something that should stop being normalized. Suicide jokes, even if they do function as a coping mechanism for some, might be legitimately triggering for other individuals.
Making a suicide joke in conversation with an individual someone is close with, is much different from making a suicide joke in general conversation or in public.
Suicide jokes can provoke and remind people of dark and negative thoughts and may encourage someone to act on them. I have frequently heard people say “I want to kill myself” in a non-serious manner in a room of people they do not know. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for people aged 15-24, and nearly one out of every 25 students have attempted suicide. Chances are there is someone in that classroom where that sentence brings back feelings of self-neglect and harm they have attempted it get over.
There are so many other things someone could say rather than “ I want to kill myself.” For example: “Wow, I messed up” or “ I am so stressed” or “I need a nap” all of which convey similar emotions, but in a manner that does not provoke suicidal thoughts. Using suicide talk is lazy, and this lazy language is dangerous.
There are many other ways to talk about suicide in a constructive manner as well. Whether that be writing about it, or finding a close friend to talk about it, or even joking about it in the proper setting. In the end, an open classroom is never the proper setting.
by Tova Carter