How Not to be an A**hole: On the Issue of Suicide and Depression

Bella Nadler, Staff Writer

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In an age where suicide is thrown around and exploited in the media, it is important to be aware that suicide is a serious problem in our society. In a 2012 World Health Organization report, it was found that approximately one million people die as a result of suicide every year. That’s one death every 40 seconds. This problem is not going away – it’s predicted that by 2020, the rate of death by suicide will increase to one every 20 seconds, effectively doubling.

Just a few months ago, YouTube personality Logan Paul, while vacationing in Japan, entered a forest famous for its suicides. While in the forest, he came upon someone who had just committed suicide. He recorded it while joking around, and despite basic decency and respect, he ended up posting the video online, effectively exploiting the man’s death for “entertainment value.” Only after he was attacked online for his insensitive behavior did he remove the video and apologize. However, his response came off as hollow and insincere, owing to the fact that he likely only cared about losing popularity rather than causing actual offense.

Despite the hugely negative response, this offense will likely not be the last of its kind. In many ways, misconceptions of depression perpetuated by the media have resulted in skewed ideas of suicide. Because of this, it is important to know the impacts of your words and how to properly talk about issues associated with suicide. Here are some basic guidelines to follow in order to be respectful and receptive of others’ experiences:


  1. Don’t use suicide as a punchline.

Take a hint from Logan Paul. Suicide is in no way something to joke about. It is the result of someone making the decision that ending their life is a better option than living it. Using suicide as a punchline belittles the legitimate struggles and complicated decisions that millions of people make on a daily basis. It also makes it hard to distinguish between jokes and what could be a real plea for assistance.

  1. Don’t ignore the obvious clues and hints.

Before someone makes the decision to commit suicide, it is quite common that they will display obvious signs that they need help. It is important to know these signs in order to hear and assist those who are struggling. The American Association of Suicidology designed a tool to remember the warning signs of suicide. The tool is called “IS PATH WARM,” and it stands for:

I  – Ideation (suicidal thoughts)

S – Substance abuse

P – Purposelessness

A – Anxiety

T – Trapped

H – Hopelessness/Helplessness

W – Withdrawal

A – Anger

R – Recklessness

M – Mood changes

  1. Make an effort to listen to someone and don’t belittle their struggles.

Along with being receptive to signals, when someone is going through depression, it is important to listen to their struggles. Don’t compare their trials to your own, don’t tell them that they are worried for nothing, and don’t try to discount their experience. Just listen and provide love and support.

  1. Don’t delegitimize depression.

Suicide is a very serious matter that is often the result of depression. Depression is a real struggle that millions of people face every year, and belittling someone’s depression could result in serious consequences. By labeling others’ experiences as invalid, it creates an apathetic culture that promotes stigmatization of mental illness.

  1. Don’t lie about being suicidal to gain pity, empathy, or favors.

Suicide is something to take seriously, not to use for attention. By pretending to be suicidal, you delegitimize those who really do suffer from suicidal thoughts and actions. This can be extremely detrimental as it makes others less receptive to real warning signs.

  1. Don’t pretend to be knowledgeable.

No matter how pure your intentions are, pretending to be knowledgeable could also be extremely detrimental to a person’s well being and in turn end up harming them. Additionally, I would not suggest giving advice even if you do know about suicide. Instead, direct the suicidal person towards a professional who can properly give informed advice.


***If you don’t know what to do, inform an adult you trust or refer someone to the proper resources:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline     


American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

National Suicide Hotline  


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