The Brief: Some young TikTokers are using code words and phrases to discuss mental illness and suicidal ideation.
Note: The following contains mentions of suicide. If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Learn the warning signs for suicide and get more information from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.
On TikTok, some young people are using coded language to reference depression and suicide. Phrases including “I ran out of shampoo and conditioner at the same time” and “just gave someone my favorite pasta recipe” can be allusions to experiencing depression and/or contemplating suicide.
These terms and phrases reference a poem by Hannah Dains titled “Don’t Kill Yourself Today” which includes a list of aspects of daily life that are worth staying alive to experience.
In the pasta recipe and shampoo and conditioner TikTok trends, however, people are using the words from the poem to imply that since they’ve completed those tasks, that they’re now considering suicide. Videos often have sad music playing in the background and may feature someone looking sad or crying. The comments sections of these videos typically include reassuring messages and urge people to seek help. As with much online content, it may not always be clear when someone is posting about this in an attempt to make a joke or make light of the topic or as an expression of their experience with depression, suicide, self-harm, and/or mental illness.
This is the best thing I’ve ever made #confuse the #mentalystable #mentalyunstable #depression #shampooandconditioner #pastarecipe #gay #lesbian #bi
On June 18, 2020, @kaityjane2 posted a video on TikTok with the text “told my mom about my favorite pasta recipe and she made it for dinner tonight.”
The video received over 3 million likes and the top comments include “this comments section is my new therapy. thank you” and “Your mom made that pasta because you said it was your favorite. Stay for not only you but for her. You’ve got this.”@kaityjane2 followed up with a video in which she explained where the pasta recipe reference came from, assuring followers that “I’m not in danger anymore” and that she’s “doing better now.”
pasta explained 🤍 lmk if ur still confused
While sharing about mental health struggles can be beneficial to people of all ages, when suicide and depression are the subject of a meme trend on apps like TikTok, there is potential for them to romanticize or trivialize mental illness.
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Learn the warning signs for suicide and get more information from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.