Shifting Language: Prioritizing Mental Wellness at Andover

Trigger Warning: This editorial contains major themes of suicide and suicidal ideation. Please read at your own discretion. 

Ultimate and finals week highlights many stress-inducing aspects of an Andover student’s life. Students feel that, while many see their schedules free-up as sports and other commitments conclude for the term, their major assignments make it feel as though there’s no time at all. In this moment, it’s easy to say this simple phrase: I’m gonna kill myself. 

These four worlds, however, should not be this easy to say. This phrase has become a sort of  colloquialism, with some using it just to express dismay or annoyance faced in day to day life. In conversations at Commons (Paresky Commons) or the Library (Oliver Wendell Holmes Library), iterations of this phrase are used as an accessible hyperbole to express negative feelings in a blanket manner. 

Especially in a competitive student body, the idea that a hard working student should push the limit of sleep, workload, and stress-levels is a concept glorified under a toxic work culture that exists on campus. Due to this work culture, many feel inclined to play into this with comments of suicide. Because of its prevalence, the phrase becomes commonplace in the community, and thus quickly is disassciated with the true meaning of to take one’s own life. 

A recent survey conducted by Pew Charitable Trust revealed that 22% of students have seriously considered suicide within the past year and, according to the Center of Disease Control, suicide is the second leading cause of death among students. As for statistics in our community, 15.2% of students have been diagnosed with depression, either before or during their time at Andover. Mental wellness is a concern closer to campus than many students seem to believe, seen in their habitual use of suicide in conversations.

This habituation leads to problematic effects on our community. When suicidal statements are used so commonly, community members are not alarmed when someone besides them cannot identify that this person had just used the words “kill myself” in its true dictionary definition. The grave implications of this scenario are evident even without an explicit statement. Each casual reference to suicide sets the premise for a “boy who called wolf” situation. 

The Andover community cannot wait to change our tone surrounding suicide until another tradgedy occurs. Regarding our action towards mental wellness, our work and awareness needs to be proactive; we never want to see a day when our effort turn to mend wounds in our community. The removal of lighthearted references to suicide from our everyday speach is a preventative measure that should be an easy commitment for everyone to make. Not only are there better ways to express your feelings of stress and frustration, but any potential inconveniences resulting from more cautious language will always be worth our fellow students’ wellness.