Warning: This post contains discussion of depression, suicide, and harmful attitudes to those subjects.
Picture this scenario. Person A is confiding health concerns in Person B, when suddenly they get this response: “Wow. That’s enough to make suicidal feelings justified.”
Now, I’ve already talked about earning the right to be depressed, and I hope that you see the corollation between earning the right to depression and earning justification for suicidal feelings. Yes? Good. Let’s move away from this notion of “earning” and “justification” and into the other main problem presented here.
This discussion was not about mental health. There was no mention of emotional wellbeing, the existence of depression, or the presence of suicidal thoughts and feelings. There is absolutely no context behind B’s statement. (There is also no relevant personal history to make that statement understandable, much less excusable.) B has no idea of A’s thoughts, feelings, point of view, or history on the subject. At best, that could be a prickly moral or political conversation they just dove into.
A could have a history of suicide among family and friends. Even at the best of times, being reminded of the manner of their deaths out of the blue is unpleasantly jarring. And then you wonder – were their suicidal feelings justified? Would B approve of them taking their own lives, if their feelings were justified by this unknowable system? Or are their actions unjustified even if the feelings are?
A could be dealing with suicidal thoughts at that exact moment – and trust me when I say that “trying to ignore those thoughts and overcome those feelings” is not exactly helped by having someone validate them unexpectedly. B has now made A’s battle that much more difficult, as well as removed any possibility of being a confidant and support. The thoughts turn – if my feelings are suddenly justified, would B approve of me taking my own life? Is B saying that they think I should?
If you don’t know a person’s relevant history and mental/emotional status, think twice before throwing casual mentions into your conversation. Even if you know that person well, you don’t know how they’re feeling in that exact moment. Even if you somehow did, you don’t know that someone else can’t overhear the conversation and be damaged by it. And even if you somehow magically knew all of those things, think about the farreaching effects. Think about how you’re perpetuating the idea that illness must be earned. Think about how saying this out loud will solidify that belief in not only your mind, but in the mind of the person you’re talking to. Think about how that person may go on to say the same words and solidify the idea in the minds of other people. Is this what you want to spread unthinkingly?