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People at the faculty meeting joking about suicide


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The guidance department gave a presentation at the faculty meeting today about how to help suicidal students. The people at my table were joking about suicide. They would not joke about suicide if they had ever been suicidal. I remember exactly what it's like and it's no joking matter. That really upset me, but I didn't feel comfortable confronting them about it.

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Suicide is a very disturbing topic for most people. It really freaks people out; they don't understand it and it is horrifying too. Both because of the prospect of someone that they might care about killing themselves, and also the helpless feeling of not being able to stop it from happening. Death in general is just one of those frightening things.

So - sometimes people defend against the horror of it by making jokes about it. Laughter is a tension release. Also, by saying negative things about someone who might be suicidal, people are able to make the problem "other" - something that only "retards" or "crazy" people do; something that is not my problem. This is not an enlightened response, but it is a human one.

So, keep in mind as you think about what happened, that these people are probably frightened at some level not very deep at all just under the surface of the conversation, and this is a way of blowing off the threat. You, who are so close to the thing cannot blow it off. You cannot make it other because for you it is part of yourself so you cannot participate.

What people do in a situation where the threat is not right in front of them may be very different than what they do when they need to face someone who is suicidal. So keep that in mind too. Many of these people may rise to the occasion when it becomes real.


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