“I Literally Want to Die”
“I Literally Want to Die”
By Alice Larrivée
“I literally want to die. I hate it here, oh my god.”
Dawson student Raphael Chenail, only 18 years old, shakes with laughter as he says these words. His friend Samuel Villeneuve, 19 and pictured above, taps his cigarette against a wooden table, joins in, and chuckles.
“The dream. Might just attempt to off myself a seventh time to feel something!”
There’s nervousness in their giggles. The two friends are conversing on a rooftop in Griffintown, exchanging humorous statements concerning their low wills to live. It’s frighteningly obvious that a serious discussion of their feelings and their support for one another will be avoided in this conversation.
As concerning as this seems from an outside look, this is normal to Generation Z; Casual, even. This generation, ranging from ages 9-24, is known to struggle with heavy depression and anxiety, so much that they joke about it with each other.
This has escalated and led to a new internet subculture of “mental illness memes” that has spread to social media and gained its popularity there.
“I’ve got to admit, sometimes,[...], I share some ‘lowkey want to unalive’ type of memes to my private stories so my friends can know I’m not doing well. It feels less awkward than asking for help, because it’s not taking myself too seriously. Kind of an ironic cry for help, it’s not cringey.” adds Raphael, smiling yet visibly uncomfortable to be expressing his opinions on the subject. Samuel joins in immediately: “Also, I feel like most people our age are going through it, so you don’t want to bother your friends with it because there’s nothing they can do and they’re probably not that great either, so you just go see a therapist and not mention it to your friends [at least not in a serious way].”
Agathe Dusser, a psychologist that specializes in psychoanalysis, speaks on the subject. “Even if this generation that’s mostly teenagers is more depressed and faces higher risks of suicide than the others do, they’re still generally very open to therapy. There are more ‘Gen Zs’ in treatment than in any other generation, and they’re not afraid to ask for professional help.”
More than 37% of Gen Zers have reached out for help and have experienced therapy or a psychiatric evaluation with a mental health professional. Although these statistics seem hopeful, it’s important to ask ourselves; Where do all of these jokes and viral memes about suicide come from, and why are they constantly being reposted?
Unfortunately, Gen Zers’ self-empathy and awareness, which are ultimately what prompt them to receive professional help in the first place, don’t appear to transfer into their personal lives and relationships. Why are Gen Zers afraid to directly ask their friends for help?
Many factors contribute to this, ranging from the fast-paced nature of social media to the Covid-19 lockdowns that have led the world into a mental health and social skills crisis. Gen Zers are growing up in a world that limits real contact and prioritizes quick, straightforward text messages, both of which have been exacerbated by the pandemic. While connections are numerous and span far and wide across social media platforms, they aren’t necessarily intimate or deep enough to provide a space for genuine vulnerability. Gen Zers’s constant disconnection from one another (that is to say, on a more personal and intimate level), is something this generation has experienced excessively, which is a feasible factor behind their difficulty in expressing true vulnerability. Even if one has the support of friends, being used to communicating through online social networks has made authentic, real-life communication feel unusual. The fast-paced and emotionally-removed nature of expressing suicidality via jokes or memes, whether in person or online, definitely mirrors this generation’s overall means of online socialising: voice something lightly, be validated that you’re not alone, and relish in the fact that your feelings are relatable so long as you don’t get too specific and turn into a buzzkill. With teen suicide rates climbing, these ‘suicide jokes’ and memes are coping mechanisms that allow Gen Zers to approach these strong, ineffable feelings without too much pain, and without worrying about being judged or discredited by their peers [who many worry are experiencing the same, if not worse, struggles]. Maybe, after all, this is an epidemiological cry for help from Generation Z.