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Why We Need to Stop Saying 'Committed' Suicide

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I try to not take it too much to heart when people say something insensitive, but there is a common phrase that does upset me each and every time. When people say someone “committed suicide.” I hate this term, “committed” brings to mind something bad someone did willfully.

As defined by Google, the word “commit” means “to perpetrate or carry out (a mistake, crime or immoral act).” For example, “He committed an uncharacteristic error.” Common synonyms for the word include: perpetrate, be to blame for, be guilty of and to be responsible for.

To me, none of the above sound right to describe someone whose life has ended by suicide. To “commit” sounds like it was something deliberately done wrong. Most people who die by suicide are overrun by a mental illness that suicidal thoughts is a symptom of. They do not willfully choose to take their life. People who die by suicide are not committing a crime, they are usually reaching the worst of their illness, their lives are consumed by the disorder and the symptom of despair.

I say “died from suicide.” To me, it is the same as saying someone died from any other health condition. Suicide is the culmination of a potentially fatal disorder like any other, and the end result for this particular person was death.

I have experienced these feelings as a symptom of my own mental health issues. I’ve batted through anxiety disorders, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). My own illnesses convinced me death was the only available option. I know I’m not alone. Many others around the world each day are fighting these thoughts themselves.

While it may seem silly to some for me to be upset by a technical term, suicide has long-held and deep seated shame, shame that stops those surviving their attempts from getting help, and shame that stops those who are left behind when their loved one dies by suicide. How we talk about suicide is important.

I believe almost everyone will know someone who has died from suicide, but it seems to be kept so quiet due to believing the shame that they did something sinful and wrong. Individuals who die by suicide were more than the sum of their illnesses, they were more than the cause of their death. I believe these people need to live on in our memories.

Sadly, I have known several beautiful people who had the same illnesses, illnesses that ultimately caused death. Not one of those people were criminals, and it shouldn’t be insinuated they were by labeling their deaths in a similar way.

For me personally, my brothers death from suicide has helped me to keep strong when my own mental health was at its worst. Losing him made me realize how much my illness was lying to me about needing to give up. I remembered the pain it caused the family left behind. I recalled the shame and that no one talked about him anymore. It made me determined to not let my disorder take control of my actions.

There are lessons we can learn if we talk about those who have lost their battle. If we remember them for who they were outside of their depression, anxiety and suicidal death, because at the end of the day, they were people who someone loved and misses.

Until we decriminalize the terms we use when talking about mental illness and especially suicide, the stigma will always remain.

Follow this journey on The Art of Broken.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Thinkstock photo via Jupiterimages.

Originally published: May 1, 2017
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