Why I Don’t Think Suicide Humor is Humorous


This is funny?

I blame it on Top Chef.

Some time ago, in Season 4000 I think, one of the chefs was completely stressed out. Ok, that describes just about every episode, but this chef was so wiped out with frustration that he pantomimed shooting himself in the head to a diner in his buffet line. And he went all the way. Not only did he hold the finger gun to his head, but he pulled the trigger and used his other hand to indicate his brain matter splattering all over the place.

I’ve done the finger thing; I’ve done it a lot. But I haven’t done it since that day.

I haven’t said, “I’m going to open a vein” either. I used to say it regularly, when I was overwhelmed or frustrated or sick to death (there we go again) of the daily hassles of caring for my kids and running a household, all while also trying to work.

I realize “open a vein” and pretending to shoot yourself in the head are not literal statements of intention to self harm. Rather, like me, most people use them to indicate frustration, annoyance or irritation. There is even a Facebook page devoted to just that urge. People who want to kill themselves, though, seldom do it because they are irritated. No. Self-harm usually comes from wanting to end the pain and hopelessness of crushing depression.

I live with people who know I sometimes feel that depressed, that hopeless. My husband even knows how I’ve thought I would make my exit. But treating self-harm lightly shows a complete lack of respect for the compassion he continually shows me, the compassion that helps pull me out of the darkest places.

What about you? Do you think references to self-harm are harmless? Do you use them yourself? Let us know in the comments.



16 responses to “Why I Don’t Think Suicide Humor is Humorous

  1. I am guilty of doing this at times. And I will admit whenever I do say something like, “I want to shoot myself,” I get a tinge of “that was unnecessary” in the back of my mind. Which is a signal that I need to stop saying it. We are already a culture desensitized to so much. No need to add more into that.


    • You took the words out of my mouth. I saw your comment before I left mine and I was going to admit to having that same tinge you described. You’re right, it’s just not necessary.


  2. I know. It hit me like a ton of bricks when I saw that chef. Then, I remembered my husband cringing just a little when I said I’d open a vein. It hasn’t been that hard to give up–easier than the “F” word!


  3. I used to make off-hand comments about killing myself if something wasn’t going well…then my ex-wife’s brother killed himself. Having seen the devastation resulting from that tragedy, I stopped doing it completely.


  4. Oh, god, I’m sorry. No one near me has been successful in killing him/herself, but my mom’s brother tried repeatedly. Thanks for sharing what is obviously very painful.


  5. When going through a particularly difficult time, and someone asks what he or she can do to help, I’ve actually said, “Besides knocking me over the head with a blunt object?” I’ve said I want to stab an ice pick in my eye or slam my head into the wall. But in the deepest throes of postpartum depression, my repeated mantra was “I hate my life” and “just kill me”. Not exactly pantomiming self-harm, but damaging nonetheless. I still find myself reverting to that harming self-talk when I have a bad spell. I got so used to that script, it still lingers. I WILL hate my life if I keep telling myself that.


    • Exactly! I’ve been listening to Happy in the car (when no one else is around) and singing “I’m happy! Clap along if you feel…etc.” I think it’s actually working.


      • isn’t that the most cheerful song? i only heard it for the first time last month. very addictive, and oh so cheerful! now it will be my ear worm for the next while.


    • wow, just today i asked a friend for a hot poker for my eye, as it’s day three of a migraine. i don’t think i’ll do that again after reading this! also, when i would be in my darkest of days i would verbally wish someone else would kill me, so i wouldn’t be the one doing it.
      i have had people in my life be successful with their suicides. i look at it totally differently now. thank you for writing this post.


  6. I shared this on my FB page. I’m often afraid of being seen as over-sensitive if I express what you just said so elegantly. Gotta pass this one on.


  7. I go back and forth with this. I do it and I think it — rather, I think the words, “Shoot me now” but I honestly don’t want to die and as depressed as I often feel, I have no interest in committing suicide. I just want to feel better. I also don’t know if this is because I am not as depressed as other people OR if this is because I lived through my father killing himself. It was horrific and I promised myself that I would never put anyone through the pain that he put me and the rest of his family and friends through. Interestingly enough, I never heard my dad say anything that made me believe that he was capable of carrying out that ultimate ending. He eluded to being unhappy with his situation and would say things like “I want to get in my car and drive away from everything” which I now recognize as talking about suicide, but he NEVER said things in the dramatic way that I and others often do — “shoot me now” or “knock me out” or “open up a vein.”

    I am very aware of who I say these things around and I really need to simply stop saying them. I don’t like to hear these sorts of phrases used casually and I think it’s inappropriate when they are presented in such flippant ways as you described on reality TV. I think you are wise to recognize that hearing that sort of thing from you can be jarring to those who love you and very much know that you have been suicidal.

    I guess the part of me that has lived with mentally ill and suicidal people (both my parents and my brother) knows that suicidal tendencies are varied and complex and unpredictable. I honestly have a harder time when my mother tells me that “everything is fine.” Those words sting way worse than if she said she was “about to open a vein.”

    I don’t know. The variety of mentally ill people in my life are the ones who appear as if everything is okay. Therefore the suicide and the episodes seem to come out of nowhere. I am more the externalizer — more likely to talk and discuss my pain. Obviously this is a hot button for me. As always, thank you for bringing attention to mental illness and talking about subjects that so many shy away from.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s