Andover’s toxic effect on its student’s mental health has been well-documented and thoroughly examined. We often critique the school’s competitive atmosphere, comment on the detrimental habits that it fosters, and look to the school’s administration for change. It is easy to blame the school for the lack of discussion around issues of mental health, but the problem becomes more complicated when we consider how we ourselves might play a damaging role in the conversation — especially when it comes to depression.
The way our generation incorporates phrases that belittle depression has unintentionally contributed to a culture in which suicide and suicidal thoughts cannot be discussed with the gravity they deserve. These phrases have become so ingrained in our everyday conversations that we hardly realize what we’re saying. “If this class doesn’t end soon, I’m going to kill myself.” “You took the last den cookie? You suck. Literally kill yourself.” What might have once been interpreted as a genuine confession of suicidal thought is now wildly misused, detracting from its urgency. Yet these comments have become commonplace, an exaggerated expression of offhanded annoyance.
Of course, we do not intend for these remarks to be taken seriously, and herein lies the problem: we have become so numb to the things we say that we have changed the way we discuss suicide and self-harm, delegitimizing real trauma and re-appropriating them with casual connotations.
Normalizing these phrases is dangerous, because those who are truly suicidal could feel that they cannot speak frankly with friends or counselors about their depression. These topics have become relatable “jokes” — phrases that we answer with a “me too” or “same” — so when the time comes to be serious, it might be challenging to broach the topic in a sincere way. We are so quick to blame adults on campus for the fact that depression issues are not meaningfully discussed, but it is most concerning that not even a genuine conversation between friends is plausible.
Students must take the first step in challenging the trivialization of depression and suicide. Perhaps abbreviations such as “kms” — kill myself — and others like it are used in your group chats all the time. Maybe you’ve heard them muttered once or twice in the library over a stack of books. Whether we realize it or not, each of these remarks undermines progressive discourse on depression. The administration is the highest branch in Andover’s hierarchy, where systemic change can be implemented. But to change the culture and public perception surrounding depression, we must first critique and challenge our use of these phrases to step up and clear a path for sincere dialogue between students.
This editorial represents the views of The Phillipian, vol. CXL.