Famous online retail company Amazon faced the wrath of angry Canadians when they decided to add suicide-mocking shirts in their inventory.
Thankfully, the shirt has been removed from Amazon.
However, there are a number of other disgusting t-shirts still on Amazon that convey the same message.
One of the activists from Calgary, Maggie Harder, expressed her disapproval without hesitation, creating an online campaign rallying support.
Ms. Harder agreed to answer a few questions from The Eye:
The Eye: How did you find out about these terrible shirts?
Ms. Harder: One day, when talking with some friends from summer camp, we found out that a fashion retail outlet was selling shirts that were derogatory towards the mentally ill. They made light of depression, anorexia, and mental illness in general. I did some more research and found out that there had been some action taken to remove those shirts. I figured those can’t be the only ones. Amazon is an online retailer with thousands of products available to millions of users so I typed in some key words, and sure enough, products that shouldn’t be for sale showed up.
The Eye: There are so many people who would argue that you’re “overreacting” and think jokes are simply jokes. How do you respond to that?
Ms. Harder: Yes, they may be jokes, and sometimes dark humor can be a way of easing into talking about serious causes. These shirts, though, aren’t appropriate. They may be jokes, but they can be triggers for those who have dealt with or are dealing with suicidal thoughts. Removing them isn’t supposed to be a violation of freedom of speech, but a safety precaution. It’s 100% possible to be funny without being derogatory.
The Eye: What do you have planned next?
Ms. Harder: I will keep encouraging for us as a society to recognize and stop the stigma facing the mentally ill, including suicide prevention and mental health awareness. I also plan on speaking at local schools and continuing to be an ally for the mentally ill. I am an advocate for equality for everyone no matter their race, religion, sexual orientation, mental well being, gender identity etc. and I will continue to fight for that.
The Eye: What’s one thing you wish people to get out of all you’ve done?
Ms. Harder: I want people to know that no matter what, they matter. I wish for people to know that it’s okay to seek help and okay to help others. Looking out for yourself isn’t self-centred.
Suicide is not funny. Suicide is not a joke.
This heartbreaking act victimizes those who feel they don’t have any other options.
I remember having a casual discussion with another student before class one day my freshman year. When I argued against one of the student’s points, he said to me something I’ve always remembered a little too vividly: “Go kill yourself.”
That phrase alone tainted my whole freshman year at SAS. Not only was this my first year in high school but it was my first year at a new school; having that said to me gave me an idea of what kind of people I was around.
Other people might brush the comment off their shoulder like a stray thread because they’re friends and they (hopefully) don’t really mean it. However, I find that phrase to be one of the ugliest things I’ve ever hear. Ironically, the language isn’t even considered vulgar.
When I hear someone telling their friends to go kill themselves, and then laugh, I can’t help but ache for those who’ve taken their own lives, only to have that heartbreaking act turned into a “playful” comment.
Suicide is not something to belittle. The suicidal thoughts that haunt someone is not to be minimized.
That one phrase overwhelms any young student under the pressure of grades, colleges, tests, and classes. Those sharing this feeling won’t voice that opinion because they’re worried that they’re either a) overreacting so there’s probably something wrong with them for feeling so destroyed or b) going to be ostracized by their friends for taking things too seriously.
So what, nobody means anything by it, right? You don’t have to mean it for it to hurt.
What our school can do to make sure this matter is taken seriously is simply be aware. Ninety percent of suicides are caused due to mental health illnesses and depression. These people struggle with issues beyond our imagination, and they can’t be forgotten.
World Suicide Prevention Day is Sept 10, and May is Mental Health Awareness month.
Anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts simply need to know this: you are loved, you are important, and you are not going to be ignored. Please do not end your life.
The following link leads you to a website listing the international suicide-prevention hotlines for those looking for help or for someone else to talk to.