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The Language of Suicide

An important objective of suicide prevention is to remove the stigma associated with suicide and mental health issues so that people will be more likely to seek the help they need. One of the ways we can do this is to be conscious of our use of language.


Sensitive Use of Language
Moving Beyond “Committed, Completed & Successful”
The term “committed suicide” implies a level of criminality while “completed suicide” implies earlier attempts when there may have been none. Both terms (committed and completed) perpetuate the stigma associated
with suicide and are strongly discouraged. Using the word “successful” or “failed” to describe suicide is also discouraged. Terms such as “died by suicide” or “died of suicide” as well as “suicide death” and “fatal suicide behavior” are recommended. Sensitive use of suicide related language is appreciated.
Those who have lost a loved one to suicide are “suicide survivors”. Those who have lived through a suicide attempt are “suicide attempt survivors.” Even the phrase “suicide attempt” can raise controversy because it implies that the person failed in his or her intention to die.
It is expected that the issues and solutions of language usage will continue to evolve as the field of suicide prevention continues to grow.

Please Try to Avoid:
Committed suicide
A successful suicide
A completed suicide
Failed suicide attempt

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Terms to Use Instead:
Death by suicide
Took her/his own life
Died by suicide
Killed him/herself
Suicide death

For more Information:
Language Describing Suicidal Behavior:
www.maine.gov/suicide/about/language.htm