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The Language of Suicide

 Because I have had some requests for this information I thought it best to publish on a separate page.

You are welcome to use the information on the page but please offer credit where credit is due. I have put this page together and would appreciate it if, when duplicating it you include my name and website address along with the American Society for Suicidology site.

Suicide and suicide bereavement are subjects close to my heart because of personal experience and my work in mental health.

I have been involved with both over the past several years as a peer support worker/trainer in mental health and as a volunteer. I am involved with the Haldimand Norfolk Suicide Prevention Network, Friends in Grief Suicide Bereavement Group and Your Life Counts. I have been trained by Living Works in suicide intervention.

Terms About Suicide - River of Hope Enterprises

There have been many attempts to choose and clarify terms which are accurate but do not stigmatize when describing suicidal behaviour. Until better terms can be found these are the ones I believe should be used.

At the bottom of the page is a list of those which we would prefer are not used at all.

The explanation is provided for the terms throughout.

Use these

Suicide Loss Survivor or Bereaved by Suicide – refers to someone who is grieving a death by suicide not someone who has made a non-fatal attempt at suicide

Suicide Attempt Survivor – someone who has made a non-fatal attempt at suicide.

Died by suicide, death(s) by suicide or “suicided” (not a proper term but acceptable), “Completed suicide” is sometimes used but like “successful suicide” implies some measure of good – these are preferred to “committed suicide”, which is a throwback to when suicide was considered a criminal offense.

Non-fatal suicide attempt – rather than a “failed” suicide attempt. Those who experience a non-fatal suicide attempt are likely to consider themselves a failure already and this does not need to be added to an existing list of failures.

Para-suicidal – this term is used to describe suicidal behaviour which has a low risk of death and may occur more frequently.

Self-injury – refers to behaviours such as shallow cutting that usually does not have suicidal intent.

Suicidal ideation – many people have suicidal thoughts in their lifetime but this term refers to a more persistent rumination about death and suicide.

Gatekeepers – refers to those who work in the human services and are in a position to identify possible risk for suicide (i.e. teachers, police, medical personnel, etc.).

Do not use these

Committed suicide – see "died by suicide"

Successful suicide – see “died by suicide”

Failed suicide attempt – see “non-fatal suicide attempt”

Terms reflect terminology used by the American Society for Suicidology

Last updated May 2010.