Help me eliminate the phrase, ‘committed suicide’

charles-2013-ffs-1

I understand the phrase has been around a long time. It’s even the headline in my most popular article (I didn’t write that phrase in that headline, by the way*).

Historically, suicide was considered a crime up until the early 60s. In some other parts of the world, it still is.

Saying, ‘committed suicide’ implies crime

Suicide is not a criminal act like murder or a home invasion, but often the result of a treatable brain disease such as depression, addiction, or bipolar disorder or even a physical trauma such as a head injury.

In short, suicide is a public health issue.

“Committed suicide” is, quite frankly, an insensitive phrase even if you don’t mean it that way.

It makes me cringe now, although I used to use the phrase myself.

Charles’ suicide was the result of withdrawal from heroin that coincided with a major depressive episode. He didn’t want to end his life, he wanted to stop his endless and inescapable pain. In that state of mind he didn’t see any other option.

However distorted this might seem to you, my son’s suicide was not a crime. It was not a punishment meant to hurt me as a parent.

It was the result of his feeling isolated, ashamed and worthless. And while I have felt a devastating sense of loss and pain, I have never felt shame. I am proud to have been Charles’ mom.

Due to the widespread misunderstanding of what suicide really is, it’s often viewed as a ‘less noble’ way to lose a loved one than losing one to something like cancer or heart failure. This perpetuates the shame and stigma of suicide as a cause of death and it makes it harder for families to talk about and heal after losing a loved one to suicide.

Died by suicide

This is the current accepted phrase. Killed himself or killed herself is also acceptable.

By simply being aware of your language, you can make the transition. Correct yourself out loud in conversation if you use the outdated phrase, then forgive yourself and understand this change is a process.

To take it one step further, ask journalists in the online comments section to use the phrase “died by suicide” in their articles. We needn’t badger or make others feel guilty. We need only point out why we have made the change ourselves. (Reporting and media guidelines here.)

Saying it right changes perception

This change in the language may seem like a small thing.

It’s not.

It changes the frame of reference from one of a shameful criminal act, to that of an act of desperation and loss of hope. Once there is more understanding, there is opportunity to save lives in what is a treatable condition.

That’s monumental. And an act of kindness that shows you care.

Join me in recognizing those who struggle to find a reason to live every day, honor those who we have lost to suicide, and bring awareness to a cause of death that has tripled since 1999.

I am asking for your help because I can’t change this by myself.

In honor of my son Charles’ memory and our family’s loss, I ask you to make the change to “died by suicide” and share this article to inspire others to do the same.

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Published by

Anne Moss Rogers

I am the mother of two boys and the owner of emotionally naked, a site that reached a quarter million people in its first 18 months. I am a writer and professional public speaker on the topics of suicide, addiction, mental illness, and grief and currently working on getting a book published. I lost my youngest son, Charles, 20, to suicide June 5, 2015. As talented and funny as Charles was, letting other people know they matter was his greatest gift. And now the legacy I try and carry forward in my son's memory.

31 thoughts on “Help me eliminate the phrase, ‘committed suicide’”

  1. Thank you all for responding. One foot in front of the other. I continue on the journey of life. I do have a counselor as this should help…yet so many years pass and it feels like just existing. I am a peer support specialist and work in the ” system”. Wish we still had support groups. God bless you all

  2. Thank you. You are a warrior. Thank you. It takes incredible strength to wrought knowledge from grief and incredible kindness to them share that hard earned knowledge with the world.

  3. Leslie, it breaks my heart to read your post. Please dont give up hope. One of the beautiful things about life is that it is ever changing. Please dont give up hope. People are praying for you.

  4. Sorry I was visited in ER as a teen and told it was against the law. Still is in my state. Kind of hard to prosecute. Stupid law. Unfortunately I still struggle and am jealous of those who are no longer here.

    1. Leslie that is so awful it makes me cry. What state is this? And how can I help?

      My life is torture without my son. Please keep trying to find help. If you took your life, your family would suffer forever. An entire lifetime. Over you. Trust me. My youngest son was one of the most precious and dear things in my life. And he’s gone. There is help. Please seek it out. Let me know what state.
      https://www.annemoss.com/2016/08/08/so-you-are-contemplating-suicide/

    2. Leslie. I do not know you but I do know about my struggle. I have felt the same way at times and only recently decided to turn the battle to helping others going through similar situations. I am happy that I have found an outlet for my pain and can only say that you have so much to give someone else who is struggling. Fighting to live is worth it even with the pain.

      If I can help through talking let me know

    3. I know exactly how you feel, Leslie, I felt the same way. You think they have escaped their pain, but in reality, their pain is still here. It has been passed on to their loved ones, and they will feel it for the rest of their lives.

      Your reply here was very brave Leslie. Whether you realize it or not, it shows you have courage, it shows you have strength, and it proves you have worth, you have something to offer, something worth sharing.

      Please seek help, you so very much deserve it.

    4. Your life is precious. You are precious. Please, please find someone to talk to and process your feelings with. Remember that you can think another thought. Breathe. Create a “comfort box” filled with things that make you feel better, like a soft blanket, a fragrance you like, a coloring book, and whatever will help you through the pain in that moment. Remember that you are loved and you have a purpose. 💕

    5. Hey darlin, I really struggled a lot at the beginning. Tried to find peace a couple of times only to be saved by my husband. My sister cried saying it was too easy of a way out for me and to leave her in anguish and for me to picture my two beautiful teen girls standing by my coffin. Yes it was a very graphic picture to imagine but at that point I really realized that my peace may have been found but I was creating lifelong pain for so many people. I felt selfish for attempting it. My feelings are still there. I can’t stop them but what I have done is speak openly to my husband about them. He knows those thoughts are just apart of my disorder and will patiently listen. Speaking openly does help hun. Find someone; family, friend, support group (even online), or a counselor. It really will help. Xo

    6. Leslie,
      I am sorry you are struggling. There is help, and I hope you will reach out. I see my friends who have lost a loved one to suicide, and they will never be the same without their loved one. You are loved and not alone. I am so sorry if you were not treated with compassion! You did not deserve that!!! You deserve love and someone to listen. Please reach out. Sending you a big hug and prayers.

    7. Never give up Leslie. We are with you. I believe in you and have hope for you. Your not alone! Never give in! You are a very precious person!!! We all stand behind you!

    8. I’m so sorry to hear that, Leslie. In 2013, I tried to take my life. I promise you, it will get better. There will still be bumps in the road, but so far your track record for getting through the tough stuff is 100% and I would say that’s pretty damn good. You are stronger than you give yourself credit for. Sending you so much love. Hang in there.

    9. Please get help right now. I know there are people who would be devastated and forever sad if you were not here.

    10. As I respond to you, my own son is in the hospital because he was contemplating suicide. Please reach out for help. You deserve a life without so many rain clouds. Keep trying something new until—until you find an intervention that works for you. Peace and love to you.

    11. Leslie,

      I don’t know how you are feeling or what thoughts you are having since you posted this and I see that many people have reached out to you and given you support.

      Before I go any further I need to ask if you are suicidal right now or have intentions of hurting yourself or acting on any urges or thoughts you may be having about dying by suicide?

      This blog has thought me that it’s important to ask the questions in a manner that leave no room for doubt.

      I can let you know that at present neither suicide or attempting suicide is a criminal act in any state in the United States. While I find the terminology offensive, “Assisted Suicide” is a criminal act in most states and that is specifically referring to a healthcare provider providing the means and being present during the administration of a lethal dose to hasten the death of someone who is terminally ill.

      I hope you respond to my question about your safety and reach out for immediate help if you are not safe and still get connected with professional counseling services to help you learn strategies keep you alive. I can’t promise you what the future holds for you. I can tell you that I am so grateful that my story didn’t end and I stuck around to see that hope is real and I found my purpose and I am grateful to be alive.

      Sending out positive vibes to the universe knowing they will make their way to you Leslie.

      Always remember you have value and worth and you matter.

      Peace,
      Melissa

    12. Leslie,

      Just wanted you to know you have been in my thoughts since I saw your post and responded on Friday.

      I have no idea what your pain feels like or where it began for you. I don’t need to know those things to believe that you feel it and it is real.

      You mentioned you are jealous of those who are no longer here. I can remember a time when that statement would have been my truth. I don’t know what it means to you. I know that for me it wasn’t about wanting to die, it was about not wanting to live in so much pain.

      I don’t know you or what your pain feels like or where it began. I don’t have to know those things to know that there is help out there that can help you cope with the pain. I know that in some moments I was not able to see past my pain to take that in and I believed that dying was my only option. I am so grateful that I now know that would have been a permanent solution to a temporary situation that I could not take back.

      I don’t know you. I want you to know that I believe in you and I am in your corner. I hope today is the day you find your way to the help that works for you.

      Peace,
      Melissa

    13. Leslie, keep your head up and know that there are many people who love you. Please read Anne Moss’s comments as they are spot on.

  5. Cory hung herself in our garage February 25, 2007. In my group Survivors After Suicied (SAS) that meets once a month (after an initial intensive, eight week course of therapy) often discusses this topic. It’s important work because recovery after suicied is nearly impossible. The guilt of my fighting the war in Afghanistan while she was struggling with depression, left me feeling that “committing suicied” was my only solution. I sought help to stop me from inflecting irreparable damage on my family in an effort to ease my own suffering. Thankfully it worked. I don’t think Cory committed anything, but I would have committed a horrible act.

    1. Curt – First of all, thank you for your service to our country. I am so glad you saw to stay with us but can understand that feeling of utter sadness over the loss of your son because I have been there. Veterans are high risk for suicide and their children are, too I recently found out. This one is for veterans specifically. https://www.annemoss.com/2016/05/29/camo-heart-griefheart-number-52/ I would love to do a #griefheart in honor of your son and tell your story. Let me know if you are interested

  6. This piece resonated deeply with me. I am saddened by your loss and will always say, or try to remember to say, “died by suicide.” I know why it resonated. In 2012, my first cousin and one of my dearest friends, died by suicide. He was 64. I totally understood his reasons, on a cellular level. He made a choice that I might have made in his circumstances. No need to go into any details here, but, though I grieved (so much) his absence from my nearly-daily life, I never once wondered ‘why.’ Suicide is misunderstood in our society. I am glad to have run across this on my feed. Thank you.

  7. You are a brave and wise messenger. Language matters. It’s important. Thank you for “schooling” me about this. I have always felt this way about saying a person “is bipolar.” We would never say a person “is high blood pressure,” for example. I prefer to say I am a person with bipolar (disorder,) not that I “am bipolar.” It is not my essential essence. It doesn’t define me.

  8. Thank you for your article. I never thought about the phrase “commited suicide”, but it really is an insensitive & inaccurate statement. I hope to never use that phrase again & will correct other people if I hear it again.

  9. Hello Anne, I follow you and thank you so much for being a “voice” , I pray your message is spread and your hopes of people understanding will be helpful for all facing, grieving or considering “death by suicide”. God bless & encourage your journey!

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