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It may be a small step in destigmatization. But at least it’s one that’s forward.

Words matter. Especially when it comes to mental health. In Wisconsin, suicide is the ninth leading cause of death overall, and the second among 10 to 34-year-olds. One thing suicide is not? A choice.

The Problem

Many people still use the expression “committed suicide.” While the phrase may seem innocuous, it’s actually filled with blame and stigma. 

To many people, it’s similar to “committed a crime” or “committed a sin” and implies the act is morally reprehensible, illegal, or simply put: a choice. It is not.

Suicide is most often the consequence of an unaddressed illness, like depression, trauma, or another mental health condition. That’s why it should be discussed in the same way as any physical health condition. 

You don’t “commit a heart attack.” You “die from a heart attack.” Suicide is the same. 

The Solution

The best phrase to use is “died by suicide,” since it sends the message that the death was caused by a mental health condition. 

Why It Matters

Using the correct vocabulary to discuss mental health helps eliminate the negative stereotypes that often stand in the way of people getting the help that they need.

Eliminating the phrase “committed suicide” may be a tiny step– but at least it’s one that’s forward.

If you or someone you know needs help, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 9-8-8. Call or text that number, or click here for more ways to receive free and confidential support today.