To: All Media
The Compassionate Friends, a nationwide, self-help support organization for families who have experienced the death by suicide. The Board of Directors, 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.
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.
Both expressions perpetuate a stigma that is neither accurate nor relevant to todays 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 our lead by adopting the new language in reporting deaths by suicide