‘I had pasta tonight’: TikTokers using code phrases to express depression, suicidal thoughts


PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA)- A viral video on TikTok has unearthed a new and concerning trend among younger users.  

Some TikTok users are adopting code phrases to express they’re experiencing depression or having suicidal thoughts. 

The phrase “I had pasta tonight” and “I finished my shampoo and conditioner,” are being used in videos as a way for users to signal for help on the social media platform.  

“Kids, teens, and adolescents are on social media far more often than they have before because really, in a lot of ways, we’re at home with fewer things to do,” said Dr. Jennifer Katzenstein, the director of psychology and neuropsychology at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. “We start to see more time on TikTok, more time on other social media and apps.” 

According to Yahoo, the latest trend was inspired by the poem, “Don’t Kill Yourself Today.” The poem, originally published on Wattapad, another app frequently used by teens, lists a variety of reasons suicidal people should continuing living, including “don’t kill yourself until you tell someone your best pasta recipe” and “don’t kill yourself until you finish your shampoo and conditioner at the same time.” 

Dr. Katzenstein believes teens are experiencing more stress due to the pandemic and a change to their normal routine. She says now more than ever, parents should be looking for red flags. 

“That means observing them for any changes in behavior, previously enjoyed activities, changes in mood, more increased irritability, or less engagement in previously preferred tasks,” said Katzenstein.” 

Katzenstein says oversleeping could also be a sign that your teen is depressed. 

“If your teenager isn’t coming out of their room as much, they’re not interacting with you as much or you see that they’re not interacting with their friends as much, those are some really nice times to check-in.” 

Ultimately, Katzenstein recommends having full access to your child’s phone and knowing how to talk to them about depression.  

“As a parent, if you have your child coming to you and saying, ‘I’m depressed, I’m feeling sad more often, I’m having thoughts of hurting myself, or hurting someone else,’ really hearing that, listening compassionately, and not responding by saying something to the effect of ‘you shouldn’t because we have a great life’ or putting them down in any way. Really listen and be there.” 

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2017, suicide was the second leading cause of death for people aged 10–24. If you or someone you love is battling depression or thoughts of suicide, help is always available by calling the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay at 211 or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). 

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