Disclaimer: The goal of Conquer with Na’Kole is to provide education and support for moms (and concerned loved ones) as they conquer the giants that seek to conquer their children. I, Na’Kole Watson, am not a licensed mental health professional nor am I offering professional mental health services or advice. Therefore, I accept no liability or responsibility to anyone as a result of any reliance upon the information produced on this site or in any communication issued by Na’Kole Watson and Conquer with Na’Kole. The views expressed on this and any other affiliated website are my own, and all sources are linked. If you are in crisis, please contact The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. If this is an emergency, please dial 911 immediately.
One of the things that always contributed to my suicidal ideation was when people would say outlandish and downright rude things to me about my mental health.
There is nothing worse than someone trying to shame you into feeling better about something you literally cannot control or using religion as a means to coerce you into pretending to be okay. It really grinds my gears to be quite honest.
We need to understand that our words have power and that they can literally speak life OR death into someone’s existence. Always choose your words wisely.
If you do not know what to say, be sure to check out my article that gives you 19 Things to Say to Someone Who is Suicidal.
Now, let’s get into it.
I’m going to tell you what NOT to say, and I’m going to tell you why you shouldn’t say it. Keep in mind, this is what I have learned from personal experience. Ultimately, your relationship with the person you’re concerned about will help you to figure out what is best to say and not say.
This list is taken directly from The Ultimate Suicide Prevention Guide, which is an ebook (also available in print form) and video course bundle that tells you virtually everything you need to know about suicide and suicide prevention. Information about The Ultimate Suicide Prevention Guide will be posted at the end of this article.
This one is gonna sting a little bit because it’s going to feel like I’m coming at you. I’m not. I promise. I’m just sharing how certain statements come across to someone who is suicidal. It’s going to sound like I’m being harsh but what I’m actually doing is reflecting the harness of the impact of these words. Remember, impact matters regardless of and independent from intent.
Ready? Take a deep breath.
Let’s get into it.
01 – You’re being selfish.
When someone is in a suicidal ideation crisis, it is normally because they haven’t been selfish enough. People often feel depleted because they have given so much of themselves to other people.
Also, keep in mind that suicide is the final symptom of a greater illness. When people have cancer, would you say that they are being selfish for letting go? What about when someone is 99 years old and their heart just isn’t working anymore? What about when someone has been experiencing chronic pain all their life and is at the point of death? Would you tell them to hold on? No, because doing so would be selfish on your end.
Now, take that and apply it to suicidal ideation. The person is dealing with an illness They are not being selfish in wanting to let go. They are tired of suffering just like anyone else with an illness would be. The only difference is that suicide is a lot more preventable than a lot of other things people die from. Suicide is a choice that does not have to be made – but this doesn’t make the illness that causes it any less valid.
02 – I know what you’re feeling.
You don’t. You may have experienced something similar. You may have even experienced the same thing. But because you are not that person, you do not know what that person is feeling. And the good news is that you don’t have to. The only thing that matters is that you’re present with the person, whether you understand or not. Your presence matters the most.
03 – Me too.
Just don’t. Please don’t. Someone else’s crisis is not about you. Sometimes we say “me too” to empathize, but we do it before we validate the person and give them space (and grace) to voice their feelings. “Me too” can cause a conversation to flip to being about you instead of the person who is in crisis. If you are going to use “me too”, please use it AFTER the person has spoken about their feelings and the situation they are in. Long after.
04 – You just want attention.
We all want attention. We all need attention. As humans, we long for attention. We long to belong. This is normal. Why don’t you wear the same outfit every day (washed or not)? Because you hope that people are paying attention to you and you know that wearing the same clothes would cause them to see you in a negative light. Why do you post on social media? Because you want someone to pay attention to your life and what you have going on.
Wanting attention is normal. Telling lies to get attention is where there should be concern. But either way, telling someone that they just want attention isn’t helpful. Because if I am willing to lie about wanting to kill myself to get attention, isn’t that indicative of a bigger problem such as the lack of attention every human needs anyway? Think about it.
05 – Snap out of it.
Snap out of what? The chemical imbalances in their brain? The fact that their loved one is no longer here? What exactly do you want them to snap out of? Would you tell someone who broke their leg to snap out of pain? Would you tell someone who is paralyzed to snap out of not being able to walk? That’s how you sound when you tell someone who is in a mental health crisis to “snap out of it”.
06 – I’ve been through the same thing (or worse) and I’m not depressed or suicidal.
Here is why that’s bad. If I am suicidal because something is wrong with my actual brain, I can’t help that. If I have been abused and my brain is damaged, I can’t control that. If I wasn’t taught the same way you were taught when it comes to conflict resolution or overcoming adversity, I cannot help that. Making comparisons is not helpful and it can cause people to feel even worse about things that are/were completely out of their control.
07 – You just need to pray about it.
I believe in the power of prayer. Wholeheartedly. And, I also believe that there are plenty of other things we can add to our prayer regimen. And because I know how rude and inconsiderate it is to tell someone to “just pray” about having cancer, breaking a limb, being in a car accident, being injured in combat or having diabetes, I’m going to pray that you know how rude and inconsiderate it is to tell someone who is suicidal to “just play about it”. Prayer is great – and prayer is not the only thing people with suicidal ideation need.
08 – You need to be stronger.
Will being stronger reset the chemicals in someone’s brain? Will being stronger bring a loved one back? Will being stronger eradicate chronic pain or PTSD from military combat? It won’t.
We all could stand to be a little stronger. However, when it comes to someone who is suicidal, just know that it takes a supernatural amount of strength to stay alive when your brain wants you dead. That’s a situation I don’t wish on a soul, but I’m so glad that those of us who deal with suicidal ideation have that kind of strength and power.
09 – That’s life.
Is it? Is life all about walking around every day fighting voices that are telling you to kill yourself? Is fighting your brain for every waking moment what you call “life”? If that is “life”, why would anyone want it?
10 – How can you say you love God and you want to kill yourself?
The same way you can say you love God and have high blood pressure. The same way you can say you love God and have a combat injury. The same way you can say you love God and have psoriasis. The same way you can say you love God and be injured in a car accident. Literally the same way.
11 – I’m glad I didn’t let stuff depress me (as if depression is an act of the will).
Because surely everyone with depression or suicidal ideation wakes up every day and chooses this. If you don’t have to fight through mental illness daily (or even seasonally), I am happy for you. But to imply that people who deal with depression are suicidal ideation deal with it because we “let stuff depress us” is insulting, invalidating and mean.
12 – People go through this every day.
Yes, they do. And they should be able to have a safe place to discuss what they go through and get the help they need.
13 – You know better.
Better than what? What we do know is that one person dies by suicide every 40 seconds worldwide, so apparently, none of those people “know better”, either.
14 – People are going through worse.
Yes, they are. A lot of people are going through much worse. And I pray that those people are met with more compassion than what is found in that statement. To say something like that is very invalidating. There is always someone going through worse, but that doesn’t invalidate what the person in front of you is going through. If you get fired from your job, would you want someone to say, “Well some people can’t even find a job at all”?
15 – People wish they were in your shoes.
How do you know that, though? How do you know what other people wish? We love to use that cliche but in all actuality, what does it solve? How does it rescue someone from despair? How does it change their situation to hear that other people wish they were in their shoes? It doesn’t. It may sound like encouragement, but it’s not. No one is sitting around wishing trauma on themselves. No one is sitting around wishing that they could wake up every day and fight to be alive. It’s hard to enjoy the good in life when every moment of your day is spent fighting to survive. And because most people don’t go through it, most people have no idea how tough it is. That’s why statements like “People wish they were in your shoes” often fall flat.
16 – Get over it.
Over what? Go to the hospital and tell every single person in every single bed to “get over it” and please report back.
17 – If you want to kill yourself, go ahead and do it.
This should be a crime. I can’t tell you how many teens have ended their lives because someone in their family (who should have been trying to help them and protect them) said, “If you want to kill yourself, go ahead”.
That is one of the worst things you can ever say to someone, and I definitely wouldn’t want that kind of guilt following me for the rest of my life.
18 – Stop talking about it.
If you are tired of hearing about something, that’s okay. But that’s a “you” problem. It’s not a “them” problem. No one has to stop talking about their mental health or anything that is close to their heart. This statement is very invalidating and honestly quite disrespectful. Most of the time, when people talk about stuff over and over again, it is because they are trying to solve the problem within their mind. Bottling it up will only make it worse.
If you don’t want to hear about it, that is totally understandable AND totally fine. However, a better way to phrase it would be, “I do not have the capacity to have this conversation right now, but maybe we can revisit it at another time. I would be glad to call someone with you so that you can voice how you are feeling about this.” Please do not just dismiss someone and their experience.
I know this article was a little tough to read, and I intended for it to be uncomfortable because I wanted you to feel how those words make others feel during the worst moments of their life.
I hope you take this information and allow it to foster more compassion and patience with people who are experiencing suicidal ideation. I also hope that this article will make you reevaluate the compassion you are showing to everyone you meet – because honestly, you never when someone is on the brink of ending it all. Whether it’s your best friend or the person who rings up your groceries, we all need compassion right about now.
Speaking of compassion, my article about what to say to someone who is suicidal can be found here.
If you would like more information about The Ultimate Suicide Prevention Guide, visit http://GrabMyGuide.com
As always, thank you so much for reading!