Words Matter: Stop Criminalizing Suicide Through Language

cw: suicide

Growing up, I was a huge fan of Linkin Park and would blast the radio whenever their songs came on the radio. Legions of fans and those who knew him were saddened to hear of singer Chester Bennington's passing this summer, and I was also upset at the language that was used to describe his passing.

In a TMZ article, among many others, journalists and bloggers used the term "commit suicide" to describe a person who dies by suicide. According to Google's definition, "commit" means to "carry out or perpetrate a mistake, crime, or immoral act." Suicide or suicide attempts should not be criminalized through language, and it is important to note that suicide and suicide attempts are criminalized in various countries.

According to Mental Health Daily, three countries where suicide and/or suicide attempts are illegal are Hungary, Japan, and North Korea. In Hungary, attempted suicide carries a punishment for a up to five years, suicide is illegal in Japan - though there is no specific punishment, and a suicide can be an excuse for the North Korean government to purge family members of the person who died by suicide.

As our society approaches stigmas that surround mental health, they must also cautiously approach language associated with suicide and suicide attempts. In an article for The Almighty, Kyle F. explained the importance of shifting language around suicide and suicide attempts.

"By shifting our language around suicide, we have the power to reduce some of the massive shame carried by survivors of suicide. If you feel scared or helpless about what to say to someone who’s lost someone to suicide, take comfort in knowing that, by changing your language about suicide, you’re offering a countercultural act of kindness. It might seem small but the interpersonal and political impact is nothing but huge."

Let's us, as a society, change the language associated with suicide and suicide attempts.

 

Sources:

https://www.google.com/search?q=commit+dictionary&rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS734US7...

http://www.tmz.com/2017/07/20/linkin-park-singer-chester-bennington-dead...

http://mentalhealthdaily.com/2014/07/24/is-suicide-illegal-suicide-laws-...

https://themighty.com/2015/07/why-you-shouldnt-say-committed-suicide/

Images Obtained From:

http://aptnnews.ca/2016/04/11/attawapiskat-declares-state-of-emergency-a...

http://www.tmz.com/2017/07/20/linkin-park-singer-chester-bennington-dead...