Language is easily one of the most important parts of who we are as people and it plays a significant role in our everyday lives. Our need to communicate with those around is a key component of who we are as humans and also provides us with the opportunity to share ideas, feelings, and emotions in ways that other forms of communication cannot. However, the way we speak about certain topics and the terminology we use in different scenarios is commonly overlooked, especially when it comes to our mental health. Changing the way we discuss psychological disorders can make recovery for those who are struggling easier and helps eradicate stigma from our society.
A common example of this is the the phrase “committed suicide.” This is something we hear regularly in the media (and probably do not think too much about) but has a substantial impact on how we view suicide and those struggling with suicidal ideation.
People commit murder, people commit fraud, people commit treason, but people do not commit suicide. In the early twentieth century and centuries prior, suicide was considered to be a criminal act in the United States and most countries around the world, meaning it was technically illegal for someone to take their own life. However, throughout the mid to late twentieth century, suicide was decriminalized in many parts of the world, including the United Kingdom and United States.
While the illegality of suicide went away, the phrase “committed suicide” did not. By using this antiquated term, we subconsciously associate the act of someone taking their own life as a crime, altering the way we view those who are struggling and treatments available. This stigmatization of mental illness can cause many who are struggling to avoid treatment and potentially deny their psychological disorders altogether. Instead, use phrases like “took their own life”, “died by suicide”, or “completed suicide.”
Additionally, the way we talk to those who are open about their struggles can put someone into a deeper hole than they are already in. Toxic positivity is a very real issue and can minimize the feelings, emotions, and experiences of someone who is battling mental illness. A few examples of toxic positivity include…
- “Just be happy!”
- “Don’t be depressed.”
- “Why aren’t you positive?”
- “Just don’t be sad. Think happy thoughts!”
Using these phrases can cause those in a dark place to repress their thoughts as opposed to being open about their struggles in an effort to find help. Instead, acknowledge that it is a difficult time, listen (but don’t tell them what you think will help them feel better), and offer support if needed. Additionally, you can check out the five #BeThe1To steps, which are supported by evidence in the field of suicide prevention, to learn how to communicate with someone who may be suicidal.
Change is always difficult, and nobody is perfect, but if we all make an effort to change the ways we discuss our mental health as a whole, the more we will be able to destigmatize mental illness, giving those who struggle more hope about recovery.
Know that you are never alone and help is always available. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to get connected with a local crisis center.
Thank you for this!! My dad took his own life, and I’ve never been comfortable with the term “committed suicide.” I appreciate you putting a reason (and some validation) behind it. ?
Hello Stacey, I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your dad. If you’re struggling with these tough emotions, please call us at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Lifeline is here for you, your family, or anyone struggling through hard times – 24/7/365. Feel free to pass along our phone number.
I choose to say suicide took my son and suicide took my daughter
Hello Shawn, I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your children. The Lifeline is here for you, your family, or anyone struggling through hard times, please call us at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) – 24/7/365. Feel free to pass along our phone number.
Mary Lou Jorgensen-Bacher
YOU are so correct here. I too have been guilty of saying: “COMMITTED SUICIDE”. I am sorry. My friend took his own life, 1999. I was very upset.
Thank you for saying that “COMMITTING SUICIDE” is N E V E R a good way of saying it
Hello Mary, If you need someone to talk to, remember that the Lifeline is here for you any time day or night, every day of the year at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Your life matters!
JOHNNY H. Lee
They Behave When Mentioned Name. JOHNNY H. Lee Not Food For.
My Mind Not Against Me. Johnny H. Lee Disobey Not Obey To Have.
JOHNNY H.Lee Not Wear His Yoke. Not For M/an. Then I’m Keeping My Feminine Side. Then I’m Keeping My Selfish Ways. Means Not Food For Them. Means Not Give My Best. Looks Such.
It Doesn’t Feel Like Me. No It’s Not. Feels NotM/an Abnormal. M/an Does Not Belong.
M/en Not Fit. Funny.
I Didn’t Admit Smell Shoes That Detour.
Not Me That Smell Shoes.
The Shape of a Peanut Dosent Fit. I Can Put Finger Around. Tight Snug When Bought.
Felt Funny. Like The Feeling Intentionally Stretch. Can’t Do Like That. Gaps. It’s Going To.
Johnny H. Lee
So It Stay Stable.
Im Not End Up With Nothing. Confused. They Can’t Even Control It.
JOHNNY H. Lee Smooth Solid Always Permanent .
Trying To Accomplish Too Much.
JOHNNY H. Lee Is Darker.
I Don’t Like That Ferris Wheel. I’m Not Wait Untill How Long.
No It’s Not. Not Draw Nigh Near.
Thats Not The Weather Either. Very Funny.
M/an Yellow Weather. JOHNNY H. Lee Rejected The Marriage of M/an.
JOHNNY H. Lee
I’ve Been Waiting For a Call From Job Places.
JOHNNY H. Lee
It Seems Like The Same Wait or.
I Need To Do Now.
JOHNNY H. Lee
Same People Different Attitude Same Not The.
That’s Not The Way It’s Supposed To.
Hello Johnny H. Lee, Thanks so much for reaching out to our You Matter Blob, Our page is not intended for any kind of crisis intervention services or help for specific individuals – we do not have conversations with individuals on our wall or inbox. Our crisis counselors are here for you any time day or night at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). We are here all day and all night and look forward to talking to you soon. Your life matters !!
The term “committed suicide” is a typical illustration of this. This is something that we frequently hear in the media (and probably don’t give much thought to), but it has a big influence on how we see suicide and those who are dealing with suicidal thoughts.
People commit kindness, also. To commit an act means to do something. If someone completes suicide, they have committed suicide. This does not imply that they have carried out a crime or a sin. I understand, how this word can be harmful, however. I would never say it to someone who I know finds it offensive.