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5 Phrases We Must Stop Using Towards Suicide

Facebook has been saturated with sentimental posts of Robin Williams’ passing. Emotional reflections of favorite Williams’ movies and condolences towards his family riddled my news feed as I scrolled through. It’s always sad to lose an American icon. But what adds to the pain is when among the many kind and sensitive remarks made there were still some that stood out as cruel and ignorant. The following are phrases that tend to surface whenever the depression/suicide topic comes up.

These phrases are very damaging towards those suffering from depression as well as their loved ones.

1. “Committing suicide is selfish”
When we make the claim that suicide is selfish we completely disregard the pain that the individual is going through. THAT is selfish. When we truly analyze what the patient is going through; the pain, the emptiness and numbness likely influenced by a chemical imbalance, then we should have no place in saying that they’re the ones being selfish. Many who have committed suicide have been treated very selfishly throughout their lives.

When we call suicide selfish we make it about us, thus sidelining those who are truly in pain.

You know what isn’t selfish? Reaching out to those who are in pain and meeting them where they’re at. That means identifying their condition as a condition and not a pity party.

Committing suicide is selfish” is among the most selfish things a person can say.

2. “Just seek Jesus
When we say, “just seek Jesus,” we isolate depression to a spiritual condition and disregard the physiological implications. If one truly understood the physiology of depression then they would know that this phrase is no different then saying it to someone with a broken arm or a heart condition.

By no means am I suggesting that prayer is ineffective but we must remember that the fall of man was not just salvific. It was a curse on the earth and on humanity.

Jesus is the remedy to our salvation and he can indeed heal with supernatural powers BUT he has also given wisdom and skills to his people that he may facilitate to bring healing to the suffering.

3. “They’re just doing it for the attention”
When I was stationed in Japan I had a friend call me up to see if I could chat. She was always depressed. While I was at her place she took two pills (her prescription). I would later find out that she took them in front of me on purpose in efforts to convince me to call 9-11 “because she was trying to commit suicide.” She ended up calling 9-11 herself shortly after I left and told the authorities that I observed her take the pills and did nothing to stop her. After running blood tests they found that she had nothing more than her prescription amount in her system- and I was cleared.

So I get it.

However, people don’t commit suicide for attention- people will pretend to commit suicide for attention. There is a huge difference.

When we casually pair suicidal patients with “attention seekers” we give the patients no hope for healing because when we say that they’re merely seeking attention we prove to them that we are CLUELESS to the reality of their pain. If you don’t know their heart- seek it or do nothing about it. And by nothing I more so mean don’t accuse them of anything. The risk is too great.

Unless we have compelling evidence to say they’re being fake I would error on the side of caution and not accuse them. Though if there is compelling evidence that they’re being fake then I see strong premise for calling them out for making a mockery of such a tragic scenario.

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4. “You have un-confessed sin”
I understand that as Christians we will feel convicted by the Holy Spirit when we are living a lifestyle of sin that has gone unconfessed before the throne. But what about those outside of Christianity? What about those who identify as atheists? What about those who identify with a spirituality outside of Christian theology or practice?

If it’s unconfessed sin then why is it that many outside of Christianity don’t have depression? They have unconfessed sin, why aren’t they depressed? Now, some may argue that they don’t have the Holy Spirit to convict them thus the “depression” won’t set in. Very well, then what about the non-believers who do suffer from depression?

The point is, we cannot scientifically or rationally identify depression merely as unconfessed sin.

Also, what about the Christian who has been intentional about confessing every sin to the greatest of transparency…but still suffers from depression?

5. “They had it made, how can they be depressed!?”
Depression is not about happiness. It’s about a daunting and overwhelming imbalance that causes great sorrow. To use the above phrase is no different from saying, “he had all the happiness in the world, why would he have cancer?” Robin Williams was a very wealthy man. He had the means to access the best of the best treatment out there, and he did seek it. No matter the joy that comes with materials, depression will still exist and still cause great damage.

“Depression knows no boundaries of fame, success, wealth or background. I suffered from depression terribly in 2010. It’s a deadly illness that MUST be treated as much as cancer or heart disease. And sufferers MUST have support of family and friends as much as if they have cancer or heart disease. To do any less as a friend or family member is to leave your loved one to the ravages of disease- to fend for themselves.” -Robin Purvis

Friends, you don’t need a PhD to help someone. Some help is isolated to the experts but you can do so much good without formal education in this field. But be aware, you can do so much damage too. These 5 phrases give no hope to those suffering from depression because they see no future of people understanding them and thus see no hope for healing.

Friends, be cognizant of your surroundings. Love the broken, call out the insensitive critics and always show compassion towards those with this epidemic disposition. Never fail to administer grace for it is the foundation of healing. Think critically before speaking or posting anything. If it offends someone without having any type of constructive influence then just be silent. If it’s not about you- don’t make it about you.


If you enjoyed this post you may enjoy the following:

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superAbout the Author 
Hi, my name is John and I love coffee. As I write this I’m sitting in a local brewery sipping a “mudslide” espresso with cream and two and a half sugars. There are few things in life that I feel merit precise orchestration with no room for error, coffee is one of them. My life belongs to Jesus. I am his son and he is my King. His work in my life is reason enough for my faith to be made complete. He lived to die for me so that I may be credited righteous thus I will live for him. I don’t hold any radical theological views, other than I serve a radical God. I affirm scriptural inerrancy, infallibility and the Bible as God’s final authority in text. See full bio here 


  1. noBark says:

    Your points are absolutely spot on. Living with a person diagnosed with depression, who occasionally has thoughts of suicide, has taught me that being there to listen and comfort is the most important thing a person can do. It makes it essential that we put aside certain opinions, and understand the pain from the perspectives of the affected. The situation is about them, not us.

  2. Chris says:

    Good stuff. Totally agree with you on 2-5. I MSGed you on #1. And as for #4, we all have unconfessed sin – and will until we die. Not necessarily unforgiven (if we are in Christ) but unconfessed. How can we confess what we do not know? I presume I have much sin about which I am completely unaware. It takes a lifetime plus to uncover even a significant portion of it. “If we claim to be without sin…” It is simply too easy an answer for too complex an issue. Thanks for bringing out this important subject at a time when clarity is necessary.

  3. Jessica says:

    I agree on all points. I would like to add my personal [least] favorite: “Just chill out.” I suppose it’s an atheist substitute for #2, but it’s prevalent nonetheless. I’ve noticed it’s frequently used with people that suffer from anxiety on top of depression, and, aside from being completely unhelpful, it can be taken as slightly insulting.

  4. kim horn says:

    I agree with every point except I believe it is selfish. My father killed himself and his reasons I assure you were selfish.

  5. Lisa says:

    My son ended his life last November. He was a Christian and he was the most unselfish person I’ve ever known. The way he handled ending his life was even a testament to this. Our preachers’ solution to suicide… stay off Facebook (my son didn’t even have an account) and don’t watch garbage on TV (my sons’ favorite show was Andy Griffith). The church really needs to learn about suicide NOT being a sin problem!

  6. Benica says:

    John, I can’t disagree with most of what you said strongly enough. I’ll have to tell you my story so you know where I’m coming from.

    Back in 1982 I was a 22 yr old unbeliever who didn’t know anything about Christianity. My life circumstances (within a very short time frame: parent’s death, rape, pregnancy/abortion, no family around able to help, and more) were horrible. I had nothing but a small job in a town where i didn’t know many people. I was alone. I wasn’t depressed though. I had circumstances that happened in quick succession that were not good, and I was sad and in mourning, but that’s not ‘depression’. In fact I don’t think ‘depression’ is a real condition, but I will explain further on.

    One day after yet another bump in my road, I faced a rejection that hurt so bad i couldn’t even swallow my own saliva. It was the needle on the haystack thing. There was a physical pain in my chest that lasted a few days to where I thought to myself, ‘I’m going to die soon anyway, I might as well just end it now so I won’t suffer for so long.’ I didn’t even think of praying to God though I believe He existed. I didn’t know was relational or that He actually cared. I didn’t know He came and died on the cross. All I knew was that He was just there, and hey I was a good person so I’ll go to heaven when I die.
    It was just a matter of fact thing to do. I had no emotions. I was totally numb. I thought of the different ways I could kill myself and settled on a knife to my throat. I decided against doing it in my apartment because my roommate would have to clean up the blood. I briefly thought of the bathtub but even then, she’d have to clean it. After a hard day at work I didn’t think she’d like that. Also, it didn’t occur to me to leave a note of my intentions and why.
    So, living next to woods around a lake I knew what I would do and the decision was made, again very matter of factly. It was the way it had to be. I didn’t waver or second guess my decision.
    I turned from my room to go into the kitchen to get a knife and it was then that God stopped me in my tracks. I didn’t even think about Him or to pray to Him. I just turned back and looked up. Words were coming out of my mouth before I could even think of them and it was very strange. It was a heart cry and I didn’t even know I was feeling so much emotional pain until then.
    The words were, “God, would you please take this pain away.” Right then a tingling sensation like a string uncoiling came up from my heart out of my neck. The pain was gone. I stood waiting for it to return and after a few long minutes I thought, “Well, I should say thank you.” I didn’t feel thankful and was still numb. But then I had the thought, “He’s a pretty big God so I had better say thank you again.” So I did. Again and again. (Then i wondered how long I should say thank for!) After about the fourth time suddenly a different sensation went through my body. It was the filling of the Holy Spirit, like liquid oil traveling from the top of my head on down through my body to my feet. I felt loved. But remember, I didn’t know anything about Christianity except that God is Love and Jesus turned water into wine (for what reason he did that I did not know but only that he did). But I felt loved. The next thing I thought of (out of the blue) was someone from my childhood that I hated with a passion,and with so much hatred that i shook whenever her name was mentioned. But at that moment I didn’t feel hatred toward her at all..I wanted her to feel that same feeling of being loved that I was having. I was amazed.
    Five minutes later there was a knock on my door. It was my two younger sisters (who were visiting another sister in the area) and I was scheduled to babysit them overnight. They were dropped off on my doorstep as planned. I would not have been there and they would have been outside all night (with no phone).

    Now… if, as you claim, it’s selfish to say committing suicide is selfish, what was I? I was TOTALLY SELFISH… As are ALL OTHERS WHO TRY.. OR DO IT.
    There is NO care of how others will feel whatsoever. It’s ALL about YOU and YOU ending YOUR pain. It’s all about how YOU feel and what YOU think, never about you being wrong or selfish and never wanting to change how you are thinking. YOU can’t be wrong. It’s all about YOUR feelings and how YOUR feelings are the truth, but only in your own mind. Tell a beautiful woman who thinks she ugly that she’s gorgeous.. tell an anorexic that she’s too skinny..do they believe anyone else or their own feelings? How about the person who feels unloved, unworthy or unforgivable?
    You have no thought or care of those who love you and how they will feel about your being gone from their lives (unless that’s your excuse of why you are wanting to do it but that’s just SELF pity–emphasis on self. You are trying to manipulate them and excuse your own choices away.), YOU have decided in your own head what they will or will not feel about your being gone.
    You have no thought of those who will find you dead, however you do it, and how they have to deal with the memories of seeing your dead body, beit a friend, family member, or stranger (even those ‘professionals’ who deal with dead bodies regularly); YOU have decided that they will not be shocked or traumatized in any way. Again–YOU have decided for them if you even gave it thought at all, which very few do.
    You have no care or thought about who will have to take care of YOUR stuff you left behind, that they will have to make funeral arrangements, and all the other little details you aren’t thinking about. Suicide is murder. Premeditated murder. God has something to say about murder.
    For you to say that it’s not selfish is totally missing that fact as well. Saying it’s selfish to point that out is flat out wrong.

    As far as mental illness and depression, the bible doesn’t talk about it except to say our actions follow our thoughts. (Brain chemicals change because of our thoughts. Studies on multiple-personality disorders have proven that.) And then God tells us how to think–all throughout His word! We need to change our thinking to line up with God’s, not the other way around. Our hearts follow our thoughts. For a Christian to claim mental illness, I’m sorry. It doesn’t fly. They need to find out what God’s word is telling them to change in their thinking/beliefs. Depression is hopelessness and God is hope, so where are they not believing God? Same with mental illness (except mental retardation). Mental illness is all about ‘self’ as well and goes hand in hand with suicide.
    Everyone is trying to be THE GOOD Christian and ‘accept’ what others are going through, but they are letting them continue in a lie. The Christian should be walking in the truth of hope in all circumstances because God didn’t wind up the universe and let it go. He’s here in our lives from morning to morning, leading, teaching, disciplining and stretching us, and always being our Hope. The focus on self leads to depression and mental illness.
    Did you know that anorexia is all about self love? They claim to hate their bodies but they actually love them and try to work on themselves to be perfect. They love themselves. Their focus is on self. They love self too much. The healing comes when they focus on loving others as they love themselves.
    Anxiety is all about self as well. It’s the need to be in control instead of letting God control and letting Him lead by obeying His word. Fear is unbelief.

    As Christians we don’t talk about these things to bring freedom to others. Too often we buy what the world tells us to do, that we are to be ‘compassionate’ and loving– sympathetic.
    The world tells us to not call sin what it is–sin. Christians want to look good for them, and we just accept it. Christ was compassionate and fed people food and truth..lovingly telling them some home truths about why they are where they are, and how to be free. We are to do the same. He didn’t say outright to the rich young ruler ‘you’re selfish’ but He answered his question and got that point across plain and clear. He also told the adulterous woman to go and sin no more. Are we doing the same or are we pandering to the world to look good in their eyes thinking it will make Christianity look good to them? Do you know what looks good to them? Hope and Healing. The real compassionate thing would be to speak the truth. If they don’t want to hear it, like the right young ruler, then be praying for them. Whatever they do is not on you.

    (The “you” here is a collective you, not a personal one.)

    For those who have lost loved ones, it’s good for you to know the truth as well. I’m sorry your loved one is gone. They made a terrible choice that you have to live with. Pretending it’s all about the pain is not good for you either. Pain happens to everyone. You don’t get out of this world without experiencing some.
    God wants to comfort you and love you personally. Please let Him. He knows all about you and how to touch you.

    • Marie says:

      I don’t think you understand the physical causes of mental illness… just like a broken arm or cancer, there are physical symptoms. Anxiety is an imbalance in the nervous system that cause the body to react physically. It’s mind racing, blood pumping, can’t calm down. PTSD, again, the traumatic experience changes how your brain functions. Depression is a lack of specific hormones. You can find brain scans of people with mental illness, and you will see how their brains are using different areas. Their hormone levels are different. Many people battle mental illness from childhood. It often starts around puberty, when hormone levels are most out of control. It’s amazing, so wonderful that you were able to find all of your healing through that experience. I had a similar experience, and it brought me back from being suicidal. I had to take care of my brother. And it’s those “excuses” I give myself every day. You are correct that serving others is a major factor in spiritual healing. But that experience didn’t cure my PTSD. Like he said, the fall brought on physical ramifications to the world. And so we have to see mental illness as what it is, a physical illness that affects our spiritual lives. Which means giving guidance for both physical and spiritual healing in tandem.

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