Compassionate Friends Organization
Changes Suicide Language

To: All Media
From: The Compassionate Friends, a non-profit support group for families who have experienced the death of a child
Email: nationaloffice@compassionatefriends.org
Web site: www.compassionatefriends.org

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.

“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 our lead by adopting the new language in reporting deaths by suicide