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We Must Change the Way We Talk About Suicide

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The majority of people refer to the act of somebody taking their own life as "committing suicide." I've heard lots of my fellow mental health advocates correct people and the media and have said using the term "committed suicide" is offensive and politically incorrect. Instead, they've asked people to say "died by suicide." This made me wonder, does how we refer to suicide really matter?

When we say "commit" we usually refer to the act of doing something. So shouldn't it be OK to say 'commit suicide' since that would imply the act of killing oneself? Suicide.Org has guidelines as to how the media should report on suicides. In regards to the term 'committed suicide' they say:

"Do not use the terms 'successful suicide' or 'committed suicide.' Use the term 'died by suicide' instead.

The term 'committed suicide' is NOT accurate and is VERY hurtful to those who have attempted suicide and to suicide survivors. Say 'died by suicide.'

Think of how we all typical used the word commit or committed in a sentence on a regular basis. For example we might say:

"I'm committed to completing the project as soon as possible."

"He is committed to stand trial on the charges."

"I commit to answering your questions at a later time."

I have never heard somebody use the word "commit" when it comes somebody dying of any other disease or illness, yet we use it for people who live with mental illness. While saying 'committed suicide' may be technical in nature, its just plain wrong and adds to the stigma.

Mental illness is a disease. I don't judge anybody who has taken their own life because I've tried twice. When I attempted to take my own life it felt like the only option available to me after years of what felt like unsuccessful treatment.

We tend to most often use the word "commit" when it comes to the act of carrying out a crime. The act of suicide was once a crime but its now widely known that suicide is most often the result of mental illness. Suicide is associated with unsuccessful treatments, not enough treatment, and hopelessness.

Families of people who have died by suicide most often face stigma. The person who has died by suicide is not often remembered for how they lived but rather how they died.

In order to shatter the stigma surrounding suicide we must change how we speak of it. Lets stop making suicide sound like a crime and instead talk about it for what it really is and why people do it. Suicide is the end result of a disease just like any other illness that kills people.


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