By Lexi Kupor
Several weeks ago, my social media became flooded with memorials, mental health resource information, and GoFundMe links as the news of a tragic suicide of a nearby high school student spread. My close friends struggled with guilt and grief as the surrounding community attempted to heal unfixable sorrow.
As the days slowly passed, the event seemed to fade away; the suicide hotline in Instagram bios was changed back to description of the account owner and the funeral fundraisers replaced with a VSCO link. While acquaintances of the victim were far from cured, the topic of suicide morphed back into what it is treated as by teenagers today: a joke.
As I walk down the halls of LGHS on any given day, I inevitably catch snippets of conversations surrounding forgotten homework, disappointing test grades, or other daily annoyances, all characterized by their ostensible ability to make my peers “want to kill” themselves. When teenagers attribute ingenuine suicidal thoughts or notions to simple aspects of high school life, the true mental suffering of so many youths is marginalized.
I identify as a strong advocate for the de-stigmatization of conversations surrounding mental health in our society. However, suicide jokes don’t de-stigmatize this grave topic; they normalize and ignore it. The bottom line is that suicide shouldn’t be normal, and by tossing the word around as an excuse for trivial misfortunes or experiences, the somberness and severity of its true nature is dismissed.
In addition to the marginalization they elicit, suicide jokes diminish opportunities for those suffering from mental illness to find assistance. As the line between truth and joke blurs, individuals truly asking for help are not taken seriously by their peers. The suicide joke culture of ignorance and immaturity renders victims devoid of a source of support and understanding. It also presents the ability to trigger those contemplating the tragic act in an irreversible way.
It is no secret that LGHS students experience some of the most intense stress and anxiety levels of high schoolers in the country. The Bay Area is infamous for its high-achievers and fast-paced lifestyle. Why, then, is a topic so sober as suicide diminished in an allegedly progressive, aware culture such as our own? A community claiming to be an ally network for victims of mental illness that condones suicide jokes isn’t a support system; it’s the exact opposite.