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Why I want people to stop sharing generic suicide awareness posts on Facebook.
Posted by emiliajoan
3rd May 2017

Everyone knows the posts I'm talking about. The "could one friend please copy and repost (not share)? We're trying to demonstrate someone is always listening" or "I want my friends to know that I am always here for you #suicideawareness "

I’m writing this to ask you all, please can we just stop.

I understand many of you reading this now are probably shocked at someone asking this. I ask you to please hear me out.

Take it from someone who reached their lowest point possible.
Plan A.
The solution.
But someone who has tried to go through with these ideas not just once. Or twice. But six times at the current count. All whilst the trend of sharing these trivial posts is filling my newsfeed up from people I follow trying or thinking they were being supportive and helpful.

Well they don't help. They make things worse.

"Why??" I hear you cry? “Aren't we meant to be making mental health less of a taboo topic?” “Isn't the media full of stories of celebrities and even royals breaking the taboo and making mental health a 21st century topic free from its shackles of weakness and being ashamed to admit you're struggling?” You're right, it is. For good reason too. I want to mental health to as normal a topic of conversation as our physical health is discussed. So why am I so against these posts?

I’m so against them because they trivialise mental health and suicide. They trivialise it so much they make me squirm every time I see one pop up on my newsfeed from a well-meaning friend. Suicide is no joke, yet we joke about it all the time.
"Over my dead body"
"This is going to kill me"
"I'd rather die than ..."
These sentences are muttered without a second thought daily. Yet suicide kills. It kills people and kills their families and friends. It's nearly killed me. It’s nearly killed me 6 times.

I've suffered rather silently for years with my various mental health issues. I've lost jobs because I've kept it from employers, lost relationships because I kept my deepest secrets from long term partners, I’ve painted on the face of normality to friends and family because I don’t want them to know that I’ve tried to take my own life and am under a number of mental health teams. They still don’t know.

I'm 'lucky' in the fact that I was already under a mental health team when the suicidal thoughts took over, but it still took me making my first attempt before I broke down and admitted just how low I was. I remember that day like it was yesterday. Sitting in the office with my manager and friend sobbing uncontrollably, having just admitted to them that I hated my life so much I wanted to die and had hours earlier tried to die.

Try and imagine that for a moment.

I stopped literally moments before and rang my friend sobbing. I didn't pick her because I had her seen her post on Facebook that morning how she is there for everyone she follows, close friends, family, school friends, work colleagues, old crushes and those random people who you can never remember when or why you followed each other; should they feel suicidal that particular day. I phoned her because months before I had taken the brave step in admitting to her that I thought I had a problem with my mental health. Over a sustained period of time she supported me with seeking medical help and I slowly opened up. She gained my trust and I eased her into the complex world of mental health and suicidal feelings. I'd been here before, though this time those friends were miles away. It's never easy, even to admit you are feeling depressed or suspect you have a mental illness. Nothing prepares you for it.

But no one is ever prepared from someone coming to them as a friend and admitting those feeling.

Try and imagine that for a moment.

No one is taught in school what to do when a friend comes to you and talks about their mental health. No one is taught at college or work what to do when a friend admits to you that they feel suicidal. No one learns from their weekly magazine what to do when a friend tells you that they are thinking of taking their own life. There is good reason why it takes trained professionals years to train to work within the mental health profession. So whilst I celebrate the fact that so many of my friends on Facebook think that they are there for all the hundreds of people they are ‘friends’ with, the reality is they probably aren’t. If you’re one of those who have posted one of these in recent weeks, did you give the content any thought? Did you think what you would actually do, should someone take you up on your offer of being there “day or night” should they feel suicidal?

I’m guessing in the 3 seconds it took you to share the post, to show your friends you’re a caring, well-meaning person, you never stopped to think about just what you were promising?

More specifically, the importance of what you were promising?

That’s ok.

I know if I wasn’t in my position I wouldn’t have either. I would have seen the posts and thought, “Gosh, I’d like to think I’m a caring person who would help someone if they were feeling low, of course I’m going to share this.” I wouldn’t have seen how my generic post would have shown a potential friend of mine feeling suicidal, that I had unintentionally trivialised the seriousness of suicide. In a way I’m glad that I have had so many friends share these posts on my newsfeed, it shows me they’ve never been in the same position as me. I wouldn’t wish that feeling on my worst enemy.

This is why I felt compelled to write this post.

“So what can I do to show people that I care and would want to help them should they be feeling low and suicidal?”

This is simple. Be open. Show honestly and none generically that you don’t see mental health as a taboo subject. Do this by being none judgemental, showing support for mental health charities, sharing positive mental health news stories and posts. Plant subtle seeds to your friends that should they find themselves needing someone to turn to, that you could be that person. No one has a close enough bond to every single person they are ‘friends’ with on Facebook. But everyone has someone close enough to them to find in their hour of need. So sharing a generic post promising this is, I hope you can now see, is quite simply ridiculous and insulting.

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