Content/trigger warning: suicide, saneism
I don’t want to do this.
But I probably should while it’s topical, so here we go: shitty ways to respond to high-profile suicide and why they’re shitty. Oh, wait, one more thing; I have already covered the “coward’s way out” and “but they were rich and famous” crap here, so I’m not going to touch on those again.
- Neurotypicals going “You’re not alone! Here is a link to a suicide hotline.” We know suicide hotlines exist. We also know that a hotline is an emergency measure that is not a substitute for long-term care and support. And my queer Autistic ass is not going to call a hotline when I’ll probably become nonverbal because I fucking can’t do phones and the hotline operator would have no idea how to handle my being queer and might even call it a mental illness. A lot of those hotlines aren’t accessible to Disabled people or LGBTQIAP+ people.
- Neurotypicals encouraging people who are suicidal to “reach out”. In many ways, this is no better than “meditation and juice cleanses will cure your depression”. Depression can be a lying bastard. Many depressed people believe that if they reached out, no one would care or want to listen. Also, what is reaching out going to do if a person’s friends and family aren’t supportive? Maybe they don’t have anyone to reach out to. Maybe the only people they could reach out to would gaslight them about how they have no real problems. (This happened to me in high school.)
- Neurotypicals going “This is proof that even money and fame don’t cure depression!” Well, yeah, I kind of get where you’re coming from, but…you’re neurotypical. Shut up.
- Any other ways that neurotypicals who have never experienced suicidal ideation can act like they know what it’s like to experience it, or acting like they have more authority than actually mentally ill people on the subject. Looking at you, neurotypical psych professionals.
- I hate to say this, but there are people who behave shittily in every group, and unfortunately, I have seen MI people acting like their experiences with depression are the only experiences with depression. This can take the form of “well, I have depression and I haven’t killed myself!”. Don’t get me wrong, that is an accomplishment, and the words of people who have actually been suicidal are the ones that matter the most in this conversation. But depression is a diverse illness. Your depression may not be everybody’s depression.
- Medication-shaming. I can’t fucking believe I actually saw this, but I did. I even saw someone (who is ND!! What the fuck!?) sharing bogus pseudoscience that attempted to prove that antidepressants are of no help to people with suicidal ideation. I know so many people who are still alive thanks to antidepressants. Not to mention that while the pharmaceutical industry is ableist, violent, and capitalist, the fact that many MI people need our meds to function and/or fucking NOT DIE remains unchanged. It’s possible to criticize “Big Pharma” without medication-shaming people who are trying to take care of themselves.
- On the other hand, “this is why you get medication and therapy!” isn’t appropriate either, because medication and therapy aren’t right for everyone. Some people have contraindications to medication. Some people can’t find therapists who are qualified to deal with their issues or who don’t suck. Don’t presume you know what’s right for someone who isn’t you.
- NOT USING TRIGGER WARNINGS. FOR FUCK’S SAKE, PEOPLE. I don’t care if you’re ND or NT; suicide is one of the most potentially triggering subjects out there.
“So, Mara,” you may be asking, “how do I respond to high-profile suicides without sucking?” Well, I’ll tell you.
Be there for your friends and other loved ones. You can’t know which of the people in your life is hurting just by looking at them. Make sure everyone you care about knows that you would support them if they had a mental health issue. Be there when things are good, because otherwise, no one will know to reach out to you when things are bad.
Also, be prepared to say more than “that’s rough, buddy” (unless you’re making an Avatar: The Last Airbender reference). You know your friend; figure out what they want to hear that will help them understand that you care and that they matter to you. It’s also totally fine to ask people what kind of emotional support they need when they’re struggling, or how they prefer to be asked (or not asked) when they need to talk. And don’t panic or freak out when your mentally ill loved one has symptoms, even “scary” ones other than suicidal ideation. Unreality, hypersexuality, dual diagnosis, impulsiveness, the works; don’t be that person who is supportive of a mentally ill friend until they show symptoms.
You don’t have to plaster performative allyship all over your social media feeds. You can share suicide hotlines, but make sure you share ones that are for LGBTQIAP+ people and are as disability accessible as possible. You can also donate to charities that provide those services, such as The Trevor Project.
Okay, I think that’s about all I have for now. This is not an easy subject for me to talk about.