Suicidal thoughts are a meme now, but what do we do with the real emotion behind the jokes?
‘Ugh, I’m gonna kill myself’
Rapper Lil Peep, real name Gustav Åhr, passed away Wednesday night from what police apparently suspect was a Xanax overdose. The 21-year-old artist had a well-documented relationship with the drug, and with prescription pills in general.
In fact, Åhr's relationship with pills, and his repeated insistence that he wanted to die, were a core part of his brand. His drug use and depression helped build the mythology behind his music. But they were also, in all likelihood, what killed him.
Everyone's used humor as a coping mechanism when they're upset. There's a reason that a quote about "wanting to die and memes" went viral on Twitter — in the heat of a moment, we've all said "I want to fucking kill myself!" over something like Chipotle closing early or getting deodorant on a nice black top.
And it is funny, in an ironic, edge-lord kinda way. It's funny because the stakes are so high — ending your life over a missed burrito? Comedy gold! Sometimes saying it even feels like you're taunting the universe. I'm so alive that dying is a joke to me!
But just because you or someone you know makes light of suicide or drug use on social media doesn't mean that there aren't underlying issues. In fact, it's a huge indicator that there are underlying issues.
It is (as well it should be) out of fashion to joke about mental illnesses you don't actually have, but where does that leave those who openly tweet about struggling with anxiety, depression and dissociation, albeit with a humorous twist? I know that joking about killing myself isn't something I'd do if I hadn't actually had suicidal ideations, and it seems like most people making suicide memes feel the same way.
Transforming your genuine anguish into a relatable internet gag or cool aesthetic content can be easier and more gratifying than admitting that deep down you might have a capital-letter Problem and seeking treatment.
But I don't think we should stop joking or posting about suicide, mental illness or addiction — at least when it comes to our personal experiences. Because the reason humor is such a popular coping mechanism is that it does help people. It just isn't a solution, and sometimes it isn't even enough to stop things from getting worse.
If you feel that line begin to blur, or sense something darker bleeding through the online presence of someone you know, it could be time to ask for help or urge them to do so.
To those who followed his rise to fame, Lil Peep's death was deeply sad but ultimately unsurprising. Recreational Xanax usage and overt despair remain an integral parts of the Soundcloud rapper aesthetic that his music and career epitomized.
But if you or someone you care about are building a brand on similar pillars, be cautious about the message you're sending both to your followers and to yourself about what's normal and what's funny.
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