I have something I want to say about this issue, but I’ll let you read the article first. My comments can be found afterwards.
The Board of Directors of Compassionate Friends, a nationwide, self-help support organization for families who have experienced the death by suicide, encouraged by members and staff, have officially adopted the terms “died by suicide” or “died of suicide” to replace the commonly used “committed suicide ” or “completed suicide.”
Currently all TCF publications and presentations are being updated to reflect the new language.
“Committed suicide,” with its implications of criminality, is a carryover from the Middle Ages, when civil authorities, finding the victim beyond their reach, punished the survivors by confiscating their property,” says Diana Cunningham, executive director of The Compassionate Friends. “Victims were forbidden traditional funerals and burials, and suicide was considered both illegal and sinful by the laws and religions of the time.
“Completed suicide” implies earlier suicide attempts when there may have been none.
“Both expressions perpetuate a stigma that is neither accurate nor relevant to today’s society,” says Cunningham. “We now know that many suicides are the result of brain disorders or biochemical illnesses such as clinical depression. But the stigma associated with suicide often forces family members to choose between secrecy about the death and social isolation. Their hesitancy to seek the support of the community increases their pain and makes their healing more difficult. Families who have had a child die by suicide are helped in their grief by the use of non-judgmental language.
The Compassionate Friends calls on all network and print media to follow their lead by adopting the new language in reporting deaths by suicide.
I don’t know if you noticed, but I changed the way I refer to suicide some time ago. Every time I said that Barry “committed suicide” I felt like I was accusing him of something sinful and this had a negative impact on my healing.
Some people will argue that Barry did commit a crime, so the terminology is correct. I say that Barry chose to die by suicide, and that was his decision to make. Although I believe he made the wrong choice, I respect his wishes and will never condemn him for what he did. And that includes the way I refer to suicide.
Please take a moment to reflect on how these words would sound to you, how they would cut you to the core, if you lost a child to suicide. Now would you prefer to hear “committed suicide” or “died by suicide”?