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Please, stop saying “committed suicide”

We need to do better folks. Words matter. Especially true when they come from wise, educated, well revered expert authors — and reputable, world renowned publishers!

I have now experienced what I can only describe as an electric shock, not once but twice in the last few months. Thrilled to get my hands on the highly acclaimed, much needed, and just-released book, I dive in, happily reading along when I read words that feel like a jolt or hard punch on my body. There is a powerful disconnect between the insight and joy of the work I’m reading and the two words on the page, “committed suicide.”  In disbelief, I re-read it and not only is it still true, it’s even there again in black and white on another page.

How? How is it possible that every single person who edited, proofed and had the privilege and absolute honor of getting to read an advance copy of both of these books didn’t flag the outdated and harmful choice of words? There is no ill-will or neglect from the author, as they are both actively working to help prevent suicides. They deserved to have others around them who would speak up and educate them on this.

Why do I care? Why does it matter?  It matters profoundly because using the phrase “committed suicide” reinforces the harmful old belief/perspective that suicide is a sin and a crime, which in turn reinforces stigma. Think about it – we say “commit a crime, commit a felony, commit murder, and commit adultery.” 

Suicide survivors (the family and friends of someone who has died by suicide) are left not only feeling tremendous grief for their loss, but shame too.

Instead, say “died by suicide.” It might be awkward at first, but you will get it. And when you hear someone else say it, speak up and explain why it matters. Given the painful fact that more people die by suicide than by murder in the U.S., it’s even more important.

Aside from this shocking anomaly, both these nonfiction, bestselling books are a must-read and so I am not “calling out” the titles/authors/editors. The books I’m referring to are too important to the world and I don't want to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.

That said, I would love them all fixed to “died by suicide” in any reprints or audio and electronic versions asap please! xx

If you are having suicidal thoughts, or you know someone who is, help is available. In the U.S., call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.

Author’s note:  in response to this piece, some have suggested “completed suicide” as an alternative because there was an attempt and it was completed as the individual lost their life. 

Unfortunately, this is also not considered ideal, as then one is stuck with an “incomplete” or “failed suicide” if not “completed” which is obviously not a message we want to give.


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