Watch your language about sensitive issues



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ABIGAIL SAATHOFF, Opinion Columnist

Editor’s Note: The following content contains sensitive language so reader discretion is advised.

When I was 11 years old, I first learned what suicide was. When I was 12, I was told for the first time that someone I knew had suicidal thoughts. When I was 13, someone at my neighboring middle school died by suicide. When I was 16, one of my classmates died by suicide. At the age of 20, I know hundreds of people who have been touched by suicide in one way or another. 

This is the reason why when I hear the words “I’m going to kill myself,” in a class or my house, or in a hallway, or the library, I stop dead in my tracks, rather than laugh along with the rest of the group. 

Sometimes people say they want to kill themselves over a test, or a tiny mistake, or a spill in the kitchen, or something falling on the ground, or having to go to work, or going to a meeting. These words “I’m going to kill myself,” said so flippantly, you would hardly remember the severity of the words. Hearing those words is almost painful, they send a shock of panic through my body, before the relaxation at the recognition of a joke, then hours later, I wonder if they were actually joking. 

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, “Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States,” and in 2019 just under 50,000 people died by suicide. That means it is fairly likely that at least one of your friends, classmates or acquaintances that heard you joke about killing yourself has been touched by suicide. The use of this language in everyday conversation also serves to diminish the severity of it, making it more difficult for one to admit they really do want to kill themselves. 

Even more so, according to the CDC, “Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-34,” the very age bracket that we as college students fall into. We may think that suicide is a far-away concept, but it truly hits close to home. Along with this, “Understanding College Students Most at Risk for Suicidal Behavior” from Timely MD found that “college students in a new environment can experience increased suicidal ideation.” The prominence of struggles with mental health is high in college, meaning using language like “I’m going to kill myself” in a joking manner is particularly inappropriate. 

Now, I don’t expect you to completely delete this term from your language overnight, but I do ask that the next time you encounter a minor inconvenience and your first thought is to say “I’m going to kill myself” that you reconsider.