Language Matters: Committed Suicide vs. Completed Suicide vs. Died by Suicide

Written by on September 21, 2017 in All Posts, Misc, Suicide, Terminology with 56 Comments

People in the suicide prevention field discourage the use of the term “committed suicide.” The verb “commit” (when followed by an act) is generally reserved for actions that many people view as sinful or immoral. Someone commits burglary, or murder, or rape, or perjury, or adultery, or crime – or something else bad.

Suicide is bad, yes, but the person who dies by suicide is not committing a crime or sin. Rather, the act of suicide almost always is the product of mental illness, intolerable stress, or trauma.

To portray suicide as a crime or sin stigmatizes those who experience suicidal thoughts or attempt suicide. This stigma, in turn, can deter people from seeking help from friends, family, and professionals.

As Susan Beaton and colleagues note in their article, “Suicide and Language: Why We Shouldn’t Use the ‘C’ Word”:

“Suicide is not a sin and is no longer a crime, so we should stop saying that people ‘commit’ suicide. We now live in a time when we seek to understand people who experience suicidal ideation, behaviours and attempts, and to treat them with compassion rather than condemn them.”

“Completed Suicide” vs. “Died by Suicide”

Warning: I am a word geek. I love language, and I also love discussing its intricacies. Some will deride this discussion of suicide terminology as political correctness gone awry. But language has power. If changing our language can help suicidal people to feel safer asking for help, then changing language can save lives. 

With that said, I prefer the term “died by suicide” because it avoids the judgmental connotations of “committed suicide.” 

Some people advocate for using the term “completed suicide” instead. I urge people not to use the term “completed” suicide. I explained my objections to the term in this post, and they bear repeating.

What’s Wrong with the Term “Completed Suicide”

Think of the sense of accomplishment you feel when you complete a big project. Then think of the disappointment you feel when you don’t.

Completion is good, and suicide isn’t.

To complete something conveys success; to leave something incomplete conveys failure. In fact, at universities, if a student receives an “incomplete” in a class and doesn’t complete their remaining requirements on time, the “I” converts to an “F.”

Some suicide prevention advocates use the term “completed suicide” because they view it as an acceptable alternative to “committed suicide.” Not all suicide prevention advocates agree, of course. The State of Maine’s Suicide Prevention Program, for example, states on its website, “Both terms (committed and completed) perpetuate the stigma associated with suicide and are strongly discouraged.”

The term “completed suicide” is especially popular among academics. A search on Google Scholar yields 470 articles where “completed suicide” is used in the title. Here are just a few examples:

Those examples actually bring me to a different complaint about the term “completed suicide.” When “completed” is used as an adjective for suicide (instead of a verb), it is redundant.

Characteristics of completed suicides = characteristics of suicides.

Risk of completed suicide = risk of suicide.

Subsequent completed suicide = subsequent suicide.

Completed suicide is suicide. Why not just say “suicide,” then?

More about the Term “Died by Suicide”

The Associated Press dictates the standards for appropriate language in most mainstream newspapers and magazines (but not academic journals). The AP changed its style book recently to discourage the use of the phrase “committed suicide.” Instead, it recommends alternative terms like “killed himself,” “took her life,” and “died by suicide.”

I have no objections to any of these terms. As a direct substitute for “committed suicide,” I prefer “died by suicide.” I’ve heard only a couple complaints about this term, and none is that it perpetuates stigma against people who die by suicide, as the term “committed suicide” does, or that it portrays the act of suicide as an accomplishment, as the term “completed suicide” does.

The first complaint is that “died by suicide” is a little clunky. Usually, we say somebody died of something (like, “she died of cancer”) not by something. Suicide is different, I guess, because the term “died by her own hand” also is in the vernacular.

The second complaint I’ve heard from folks, especially my students, is that “died by suicide” is an unfamiliar term and hard to get used to using. It doesn’t roll off the tongue.

Over time, the more you substitute the term “died by suicide,” the more natural it becomes. Likewise, over time, the more you say “died by suicide,” the more the term “committed suicide” will hurt your ears.

And if you’re like me, “completed suicide” will hurt your ears even worse. So please, I urge you, say something else.

Copyright 2017 by Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW. Written for SpeakingOfSuicide.com. All Rights Reserved. Photos purchased from Fotolia.com.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the explanation. I agree and will eliminate completed suicide.

    One thing not mentioned about stigma is that the stigma can also be attached to or felt by surviving family, friends, loved ones.

  2. C. Ancrile says:

    When a child has cancer and dies we say they died from cancer not the chemo that quite often is what happened when there bodies could not longer take treatment. Those that die by suicide are dying from depression. Depression is the disease. suicide is often an outcome. Get rid of the stigma. Mental health diseases are as real as cancer, diabetes and lupus. WORDS MATTER.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      C. Ancrile,

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I agree that depression itself can be the culprit when someone with depression kills himself or herself. However, a very large proportion of people who die by suicide do not have depression. Some don’t even have mental illness at all. As a result, it would be incorrect to ascribe every suicide to depression.

  3. Anonymous says:

    While I see where you are coming from, I also think that putting a stamp on suicide like it is okay, is by far not okay. They in fact did commit self murder. Suicide leaves behind a magnitude of pain for loved ones left behind. People need to see that suicide is not the way to leave this world, God is in charge of that. Please see that suicicde is not the answer!!! Reach out to anyone, anyone at all to help you through your dark time, you will rise out of it and please always remember you are NOT a burden! These are the words that we need to focus on!

    • mark young says:

      i agree very much with your perspective… i too believe words can be very powerful good or not so good… i personally use the phrase “Significant Mental Health Differences” (SMHD) in nonprofessional environments… it goes to not using words that carry “baggage” of others different, sometimes very different, meanings gained from personal experience with, lack of accurate knowledge, etc.,, for example, using professional terms in nonprofessional settings can confuse and create a sense of overwhelming circumstances that simply are counterproductive when trying to help others be more informed about the realities of mental health, suicide… we all are interested in our own mental well being… some of us experience significant differences that are simply don’t allow us to experience and live in the world as most others do… i have writte anumber of articles and would appreciate your perspective about how they can affect others… they are meant to convey some of these differences (perhaps onlyu my own) of Mental health to clarify and hel;p others more realistically relate to a world that very often can only be known from the inside out… please visit linkedin articles in my profile @ mark young… these are two links… blessings, M https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/considering-some-realities-suicide-mark-young-1e/

    • mark young says:

      murder is a highly judgemental term especially regarding something that the knowledge of why behind the suicide can only be known by that person themselves… all else is a guess at best… to label an act murder requires a accurate knowledge of the true intention… don’t know your personal experience with suicide but i have experienced it from both sides of the coin and advocated for and supported for many in their pain and suffering… be careful judging from what your cannot know perfectly… a caring loving forgiving person would recognize their own inability to know without question the true reality of another individual’s reality…

      blessings, M

      please view my article discussing this and more re suicide from someone who has lived it in personal experience…

      https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/know-true-reality-something-sometimes-just-takes-learn-mark-young/

      https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/considering-some-realities-suicide-mark-young-1e/

    • Heather says:

      If God really was in charge of how someone leaves this world, a person trying to kill themselves would be able to let out all their blood and still be alive with zero blood cursing through their veins, or in fact God would heal their wounds whenever they try to commit self murder. Which I do agree with they did or tried to commit self murder.

  4. Amey says:

    it is sad

  5. Kenneth says:

    I would consider stating ” the cause of death was suicide” . It is good for writing, a little less so for speaking. My cousin died of suicide, but it could also be said, died of a (self inflicted) gunshot wound. The frantic phone call I got in the middle of the might was F****** killed herself. RIP Unfortunately, some people love the details.

  6. Robin Banavage, M. says:

    I highly agree with the use of “die by suicide”. I disagree with the way that “committed” criminalizes an act of desperation sprung from inner pain and turmoil. We recently learned in our lectures to say “die by suicide” and I was genuinely relieved to have found a way to articulate the act without demonizing and stigmatizing the victim or survivor. “Commit suicide” holds deep prejudice about the morality of suicide and where it comes from.

  7. Kim says:

    I say my son lost his battle with anxiety and depression. Just like someone losses their battle with cancer, diabetes, or heart desease. He died of a physical illness of the brain

  8. Hunnytree says:

    …or….why not say a phrase already in fairly common usage….”took his/her own life” ? I would add that we commonly refer to the taking of another’s life in a similar linguistic manner.

  9. Jo Scharf says:

    In Spanish there is a reflexive verb: “suicidarse”. You would say “se suicidó”. It means “he/she suicided” or “he/she killed himself/herself”. Could we encourage people to say “he suicided” instead of “he committed suicide”?

  10. Sue Heymans says:

    Stacey, thank you for this article. We know suicide is an emotional issue and it seems even discussion of non-stigma terminology evokes emotions. Thanks

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Sue, thank you for your feedback. I agree, discussion of suicide and stigma is fraught with emotions, even when we’re trying to reduce stigma. My hope is that in time suicide can be frankly discussed with more ease than now.

  11. Steve Barnaby says:

    The term “died by suicide” is grammatically redundant and therefore incorrect. It’s like saying “died by electrocution.” “Electrocuted” implies death as does suicide. Unfortunately saying “suicided” would be considered an awkward use of the English language. The most effective and forthright alternative that best describes the suicide is saying the person “killed themselves.”

    • Anonymous says:

      You can be electrocuted and not die.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Steve,

      I see what you mean about the potential redundancy of the phrase “died by suicide.” But don’t you think “by suicide” simply gets more specific about how one died? To be truly redundant, one would need to say that someone suicided and died.

      Regardless, our language is peppered with phrases that are more colloquial than logical. For example, “organic” food. Organic means living matter, or the product of living matter. So, all food is organic. But when one says “organic vegetables,” people widely understand that to mean vegetables that were grown without the use of pesticides.

      My point is that language can be imprecise or even contradictory but still have a clear meaning to others. In this case, there is no doubt as to the meaning of the phrase “died by suicide,” and it hurts nobody to use it.

    • Hunnytree says:

      ….or why not simply what is already in common usage…..the phrase….”took his own life”

  12. Anna says:

    Interesting and thought-provoking. I’d never thought of ‘committed suicide’ as a derogatory term, but I can see some might think of it in that way. ‘Completed suicide’ sounds plain odd. I guess the important issue here is around the stigma of suicide, for those considering it and those affected when someone has gone through with it. Thanks.

    • Heather says:

      Well, let’s take a look at this a different way, do we say “they tried a crime” whether than “they tried to commit a crime”? I don’t think so.
      And, as to the one stating that our language is full of idioms, they came from somewhere, but most of them didn’t start in the English language. And, most of us don’t use those idioms anyway.

  13. Kate says:

    I can’t stand the term ‘died by suicide’, as you said, it is clunky and for some reason it just rubs me the wrong way. I wrote an article for the mighty once titled “Dear Hubby, Sorry I tried to kill myself” and they changed the title to “Dear Hubby, sorry I tried to die by suicide” and it made me hate the article, it felt like yet another correction, another thing I couldn’t do right. I know that sounds really silly…
    I also don’t have a better alternative to offer

  14. KS says:

    I contemplate suicide all the time, & I don’t care what words anyone might use to describe it. I’m a Linguistics major – and words are one of the only things I find meaningful- so that’s saying something. If I ever did complete the act, and actually committed suicide – the absolute last thing that would matter would be the words you would use to describe it afterward – just saying.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      KS,

      Fair point. The words aren’t important to you. They are important to many other people, though, not only people who think about or have attempted suicide, but also people who have lost a loved one to suicide and don’t want the person they lost to be likened to a criminal.

      It’s such an easy thing to avoid certain language that I figure, why not? If it helps some people and doesn’t hurt the others, including people like you who don’t care about the words, then it seems like a “win-win.”

  15. irdra says:

    Oh, if only you could spell out the words instead of putting a single letter in quotations you might actually be of some useful help on the subject of suicide to soneone.

    (Here let me spell it out for you…)
    !!! S – U – I – C – I – D – E !!!

    But N0 ! And why ? Because your political correctness (as usual) trumps reality today as always like any other ig!N0!rant, stupid ‘belief’ ALWAYS DOES AND WILL !

    Go figure and imagine that…

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Indra,

      The level of anger provoked by this article (see Felix’s comment below) intrigues me. I would love to understand more about what is offensive or threatening about avoiding the term “commit suicide.”

      I also don’t understand your suggestion that I’ve avoided the word “suicide” in my article. You’ll find that I use the word “suicide” three times in the headline alone, and many, many more times throughout the article. I’m wondering if your comment was intended for something else you read…? Truly I’m confused, and I’d be grateful to learn from you what I might be communicating poorly or missing altogether.

  16. Felix says:

    I find this article to be such an insult to people for so many reasons, but the self-righteous moralizing is disgusting and intellectually shallow. For anyone to claim that using the expression, “commit suicide” implies more than what the means provide, literally, is irrational. If you choose other words, then that’s ok, but please don’t wag your finger at those who choose their own way. This is identity politics and political correctness overstepping a boundary, mine. Take a hike!

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Felix, this clearly makes you angry. However, if it doesn’t hurt you when others use a more sensitive phrase than “commit suicide,” and if it helps others who are grieving a loved one’s suicide or contemplating suicide themselves, then what’s the harm?

      I often find that the term “political correctness” is used to deride those who respond with compassion to others’ injuries or differences, and to excuse one’s own lack of a compassionate response. I’m not directing that to you personally; rather, I’m referring to the racists, sexists, misogynists, etc. in our midst who complain about political correctness because they want to publicly air their hatred without consequence.

      I say that because I want to make clear that I don’t agree that “political correctness” is really a bad thing, unless taken to an extreme. I don’t think using the phrase “died by suicide” instead of “committed suicide” is extreme by any measure.

      I thank you for contributing your dissenting view. It gives me the opportunity to consider and clarify my own views, and perhaps those of other readers’ here, too.

  17. Kristen says:

    I feel like something a lot of people are missing here that is contributing to the stigma of mental health and suicide is that suicide is not the disorder itself, but a symptom of a disorder. We don’t say this about physiological disorders – for example – with Cancer or Severe Autoimmune Disorders (where the body literally attacks itself) – we don’t say that the person killed themselves, we say the disease killed them. Why are we not saying this with suicide? Illnesses like Depression, PTSD, Bipolar Disorder, etc. can sometimes be fatal – and that’s exactly what this is – when a mental illness or injury becomes fatal. Healthy people don’t suicide – it’s not part of one’s personality to suicide – it’s not a choice (at least not in the cases that don’t involve some type of external threat – but that’s a totally different topic). Think of like this – sometimes our brain chemicals attack us and cause symptoms like being unable to access hope, severe pain, inability to see other options and think about them rationally, inability to experience connection with others the way that others experience connection with them, etc. Suicide can also be a side effect of medications that an individual is taking in their fight to feel better and be healthy – doesn’t that directly conflict the notion of someone wanting to die and then acting on that desire? I think that the idea of someone who “looks healthy” from the outside and is high functioning in other ways dying from a mental illness is so scary (because it could happen to anyone), that people seek to put as much distance between themselves and someone who died that way … that way they can say “that will never happen to me, I would never do that” and feel like they have some control over it. We don’t. The best we can do is get medical attention for symptoms early, have conversations like these to spread awareness and education, and not blame people for symptoms of an illness they didn’t ask for (including ourselves). Maybe if we treated Mental Health Disorders the same way we treated other serious and potentially fatal disorders, we could reverse the recent increase in people dying from their Depression/ Bipolar/ PTSD etc.

  18. Andrew says:

    Despite being someone who has experienced multiple episodes of depression, and including a suicide attempt, I really do not like the phrase ‘died by suicide’.

    I can accept ‘Completed Suicide’, but the real focus should be that the person killed himself/herself. ‘Died by suicide’ is impersonal, worse is ‘passed away’. Both suggest that the death was involuntary, unpreventable, focused more on alleviating the pain of family and friends rather than examining what stresses led to the suicide. No, the depression/bipolar sufferer was not entirely in their right mind, but this was a purposeful act.

    More terminology serves to remove responsibility from both the person who killed themselves and those connected to them. Those who completed suicide are ‘victims’, as if depression was a sentient entity who committed murder. I can see no real alternative to this, given how depression warps a person’s thinking, but I object to family and friends being referred to as ‘survivors’. It is possible that a they were as supportive as they could be, and the depression sufferer hid their struggles to avoid being a burden, I know I did, but it is more likely that their actions or lack thereof played a part in the chain of events that led to the suicide. Neglect and unrealistic expectations can be as big a negative influence as direct abuse.

    What we need to do to help those suffering from mental illness is not to make suicide an impersonal tragedy, but focus on the very personal stresses that weigh so heavily on them, and where they are coming from. Be it work, finances, personal relationships, family, even the simple sense that one’s life is not at all where your expectations and those of your family would want…depression sufferers need not just to talk about these stresses, but receive assistance in how to redress them. Getting strategies or resources to fix the problems is important.

    Preventing suicide is more important than determining what to call it.

    • Lisa Jones says:

      Quite a hasty over generalization.

    • Colleen Kilbane says:

      Completely agree. My son killed himself 6 years ago and if asked I say that he either ‘killed himself’ or he ‘took his own life’. I totally hate hate hate the commonly used euphemism for death as someone has ‘passed’ or ‘passed away’. No-one ever just dies anymore. I do find that quite a number of people get very uncomfortable when I say my son is dead, died, killed himself. These days people don’t like facing reality of life. Also I think the phrase ‘died by suicide’ is the best of a bad lot but I still prefer saying it as it is i.e. he killed himself.

  19. Ken Westmoreland says:

    I loathe the term ‘die by suicide’, which is no better than the term it is trying to replace, like replacing the letters of a swear word with asterisks.

    One argument against using ‘commit’ is that you can no more ‘commit suicide’ than you can ‘commit cancer’, but we don’t say ‘die by cancer’, do we?

    We rarely use the word ‘commit’ with ‘genocide’ or ‘homicide’ anyway, so why use a verb with ‘suicide’ at all?

    Perhaps the biggest problem of all is that unlike other Germanic languages, English uses a Latin word to hide the act of self-killing, in contrast to ‘Selbstmord’ in German, ‘zelfmoord’ in Dutch or Danish ‘selvmord’, which literally mean ‘self-murder’.

    Expressions like ‘take one’s life’, ‘end one’s life’ or, if needs be, ‘kill oneself’ do the job.

  20. Doug says:

    Thank you for the article. Any perspectives or suggestions for using the phrase “attempted suicide”? I always feel a little uncomfortable with this phrase as well, but don’t know any alternatives

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      You’re welcome!

      Some people say “self-harmed” instead of “attempted suicide, but that can include people who harm themselves without intending to die.

      I myself don’t have an objection to the phrases “attempted suicide” or “tried to kill himself” or “tried to kill herself.” However, there are some who say we shouldn’t use the phrase “kill oneself” because it implies violence and volition. (That’s a topic for another blog post, perhaps.)

      Semantics are complex, especially around a topic as tragic and painful as suicide. Thanks for being sensitive to these matters!

  21. Kimberly says:

    Regarding the discussion of “sin,” it’s best to leave that to pastors and spiritual directors. There are a variety of religions, each with its own doctrine. Psychology is not a religion. It is an overreach for any psychotherapist to declare infallible dogma.

    I understand that there may be prejudice in the field of psychology regarding past religious doctrines that were held by one or a number of religions, but it’s an error to generalize. In my own Church, for 2,000 years, people who die by suicide are not kept out of the hallowed burial ground. There are ancient accounts of saints who received messages from the souls of people who died by suicide, reassuring the survivors that God granted them the grace of contrition and pardon for their sins. This isn’t a belief shared by all religions, and I wouldn’t expect you to endorse it. But neither do I expect you to provide spiritual guidance by falsely “reassuring” people that suicide is never a sin. We understand that mental illness is a human weakness in the same way that every other illness and daily imperfection is a weakness, a result of being born into a fallen, broken world, and it’s not something to be ashamed of in itself, because the saints were just like us. In my Church, we pray for the forgiveness of sins, including the sins of the faithful departed. I simply wouldn’t refer anyone to this website, because it teaches false doctrine.

  22. Rudy says:

    I don’t like that “died by suicide” doesn’t underscore agency at the grammatical level, the way “committed/completed suicide” or “killed himself/herself” do.

  23. Jen in Maine says:

    This is a really tough one. My father took his own life in 1996. In 2004 I worked for the State of Maine’s Suicide Prevention Program. It was there I learned to say “completed” suicide. I never liked that term, but that’s the term we were taught to say. I find it ironic they are discouraging that term now.

  24. Jennifer says:

    Completed as a word choice is helpful if viewed in parallel with the fact that there are far more “attempted”suicides than “completed” ones. Self injury also complicates the discussion somewhat because it might look “suicidal” to cut but rarely is the injury dangerous or meant as an attempt to end life.

  25. Alex says:

    I prefer “Committed Suicide” or “Killed them/him/herself.” The second one is usually the go to. “Died by Suicide” is a mouthful. But if it works for you, then go for it!

  26. Suzy Bannigan says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for addressing this issue. I appreciate these observations and language choices and I am grateful to you for heightening our awareness of same.

  27. ME (Mentally Exhausted) says:

    WOW!!!! How ’bout we all just see it and call it what it truly is!!!! A loss of life. A untapped potential of wonderful purpose that was unable to be fulfilled because the suffering was to great to the one we lost. Wake up, people!!!! Also, I read something about it no longer being a crime, really. If that truly is the case then how come someone I knew personally got 2 welfare checks called on him when he specifically told the crisis worker, screaming and yelling because his life was extremely frustrating and getting more and more less worth living “I wish I was dead. I cannot live like this anymore. I am so stressed I out every decision I make just ends up with my life becoming even more unlivable. Oh, and please, I have no interest in hurting myself or anyone else. All I need is just an ear to acknowledge my suffering and frustration.” Not 20 minutes later, the sheriff deputies were pounding on his door, which caused the problem. Not to mention the gentleman he sub-leased to had been a nightmare. Oh, and he specifically couldn’t take the chance of his life becoming worse at the cost of being caged like a criminal. The “poor guy” (quite the contrary, actually) more like “screaming for HELP, begging for peace, needing relief from the constant abuse, called the crisis worker to let go of the frustration, told the “trusted” (because she was “qualified” according to those who determined such things) worker specifically that having the law show up at his house, which just the possibility of him being caged would just make it worse, and what did she do. I was that sufferer!!!! I suffer because I am trying to figure out how to make life livable. I am 47 y.o. and my first lock-up in a psychiatric hospital was over 30 years ago. My experiences over my lifespan are what becomes life to me. I have been working on better understanding my “mis-firing” brain more so now than ever before. I want society to have a chance to get to know the effects they have had on me, when all I ever wanted was value found in acceptance. Instead my legal right to protect myself and my loved ones was “illegally” taken from me, which leaves me more and more abused. From reading Dr. Amen’s book, along with my personal experiences, it definitely makes sense that the harder I try (to live better) the worse it gets. Oh and he also points out how getting the right diagnosis is key to the right treament. He further acknowledges that for the one suffering the wrong treatment is often times worse than getting no-treatment at all. I am writing a book, I guess. It is critical that we listen, and hear, and respect what we need to. I may not know what would HELP me, but I sure know whatever doesn’t help just makes it much worse.

  28. moviedoc says:

    I prefer “killed himself/herself.” And nobody dies “by suicide.” Someone who kills herself can do so by overdose, jumping, shooting themselves or other causes. Suicide , like homicide, specifies WHO killed you, not WHAT killed you.

  29. Anonymous says:

    My daughter took her life I hate the term committed suicide she did not commit a crime she was ill and frightened x

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      I’m very sorry for your loss, Anonymous. Thank you for sharing your perspective. I have heard many other survivors of suicide loss say that the term “committed suicide” adds salt to their wound.

      Also, in case you’re interested, FYI, I list resources here for people who have lost a loved one to suicide.

    • Kiwi says:

      I’m so sorry

    • Bastet says:

      I also lost my daughter to suicide. I’m perplexed by the MANY people who insist on proclaiming that someone “committed” suicide….and say that the phrase “died from suicide” is inaccurate. It’s frustrating. My daughter did NOT die as a criminal. She had mental health issues.

  30. Nyasha Levy says:

    Excellent article. I see all points but now I think I prefer to use died of suicide. I now know my son was not well and needed help.

  31. Jen Withrow, LICSW says:

    I say completed suicide or died by suicide. When I say completed suicide, I have more people asking why I say it that way. This gives me the opportunity to provide them some information. If I can educate someone on this topic, maybe they too will be open to changing they way they think and speak. People don’t ask why you say died by suicide= no educational opportunity. I lost my 17 year old son.

  32. Diane says:

    I agree, words have power. I have had a hard time with the language of someone who has taken their own life. I couldn’t have even imagined I would even be a part of this discussion. My mother ‘died by suicide’ in 1999. She used a .38 and left a note blaming my sister and me. I found the suuport group, Survivors of Suicide, and many resources and have finally healed, as has my sister.
    I thank you for your article, as it does help when the language is clear. There was a silver lining in all of this, as it raised my awareness of Suicide and subsequently I was able to save not only my own son’s life, but two other’s as well.
    Suicide is a topic that needs to be discussed. As well as the mental illness that brings most people to even contemplate, death by suicide.

  33. Sheila Cmeron says:

    My first husband “died by suicide” in 2000. I went to support groups, seminars and counseling. The preferred term seemed to be completed suicide. To this day, I have a hard time with the wording. He did “die by his own hand” but he had mental health and physical issues. He shot himself in the heart and the bullet bounced around and stayed in his heart. He died by suicide. I also have a problem with the fact that seemingly everyone says a person passed. What ever happened to saying they died. Thank you for this article. I will say died by suicide from now on.

  34. Phyllis Crubaugh says:

    I say that my son completed suicide, because he had contemplated it for a long time. It fits.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Phyllis,

      I’m very sorry for your loss. How hard it must have been to watch as he contemplated suicide for a long time. Thanks for contributing here.

  35. Linda Snyder says:

    I just simplify it further. My husband suicided.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Linda,

      I’m sorry for your loss. I do see that language sometimes and I agree with you: it’s simple. And true.

      What I despise, though, is when someone refers to someone as “a suicide.” Someone who suicided was a person, not *a* suicide. Everyone is far more than the way that they died.

      (And now autocorrect is telling me “suicided” is not a word. Alas. The Oxford English Dictionary disagrees.)

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