Please Stop Saying “Committed” Suicide

20 May

Jeff & Me - Neither of us like getting much sun.

Before my brother Jeff died by suicide, I never thought about the language used to talk about suicide.   Immediately following his death and for a long time after, I was so shocked that the terms used to describe how he died mattered little.  But as time passes, and the shock subsides, I’ve discovered that I bristle each time I hear the expression “committed” suicide.   Historically, in the United States and beyond, the act of suicide was deemed a crime.  Until as recently as 1963, six states still considered attempted suicide a criminal act. This is so insanely absurd to me that I’m not going to expend any more energy on the history of the topic but if you’re interested, here’s a link.

Thankfully laws have changed, but our language has not.   And the residue of shame associated with the committal of a genuine crime, remains attached to suicide.  My brother did NOT commit a crime.   He resorted to suicide, which he perceived, in his unwell mind, to be the only possible solution to his tremendous suffering.  If I was telling you about a friend or loved one who actually did commit a crime, chances are that I’d feel at least a little embarrassment or shame on behalf of that person.  But I don’t feel even the tiniest bit of shame about how Jeff died.  Of course, I wish with every fiber of my being that we had been able to successfully help Jeff and that he was alive today.   But shame, nope, I don’t feel that about my brother.  I focus on how proud I am of who he was in his life – passionate, thoughtful beyond words, brilliant, determined, and braver than most people I know, for enduring his pain as long as he did. Yes, Jeff Freeman was a brave, brave man.   As is any person who grapples with deep emotional distress day after day, year after year.

So to say that someone “committed” suicide feels offensive to me and I’m not easily offended.  The offense is in the inaccuracy. With that said, I don’t judge people for using this expression – until August 17, 2007, I did the same.  But now I don’t.  And I humbly ask that you consider the same.  When you have occasion to talk about suicide, please try to refer to someone dying by suicide.

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 you know 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.


99 Responses to “Please Stop Saying “Committed” Suicide”

  1. Lisa May 20, 2010 at 6:00 pm #

    I always thought of the term “commit suicide” more in terms of it being a commitment to the act/decision itself and not as in a criminal reference. But it is something to think about. Words are powerful tools and can be used to build or to demolish. I appreciate your commitment to opening eyes and minds to this subject and am behind you 100%. I wish you all the best in everything you do in regards to this. Onward you go girl!

    • Kelly May 16, 2015 at 3:58 pm #

      I really appreciate this comment because I considerate it that way myself. My mother committed suicide, I was never offended by the term because it is the ultimate act of commitment… Also, being non-religious I never deemed it as a condemned thing, but I do feel the need to point out that it is strictly forbidden in many religions. That being said it is always tragic and it is our jobs as the ones left behind to be understanding that many others do not really know the pain.

      • PR Staton January 5, 2017 at 9:32 pm #

        I’ve searched for this article repeatedly in my work and only today read the comments. I think it’s important to remember that the word “commit” came in to use because it was a criminal act. Though people have taken it to mean something different (i.e. commit to the act as mentioned), it doesn’t change the origin of the word, which still enforces a stigma and is based on a crime. While the term may not offend you, it is still offensive to many others, and I hope we can all be sensitive to that, in such a sensitive situation. I long ago made the decision to use the words “died by suicide” or just “died”, in an effort to change perceptions, it doesn’t seem like a difficult thing to ask of those with great compassion for this topic.

    • Kristi Magruder July 13, 2015 at 2:50 am #

      As someone who has contemplated suicide I agree with you comment. I never could commit to the act fully. It is a commitment you are making to die. I respect the author’s point of view but I agree.

    • Shelley D July 14, 2015 at 4:45 am #

      Yes i agree with your perception. My grandfather, father and two uncles “commited” suicide. I find nothing wrong with this term.

    • Adele Griffiths July 15, 2015 at 6:17 am #

      I read somewhere that suicide is illegal in many places so that the police do not need to be granted permission by the occupiers of a property when going in to investigate a suicide. This is also the case when they have been made aware that a suicide is about to take place – they can go in without permission to stop the person and then provide them with help. The illegality seems malicious but when you think of it this way, it’s a protective barrier for those involved

  2. ayala May 20, 2010 at 9:03 pm #

    I hope it wasn’t anything I said during dinner that exacerbated any of the insomnia, but if I did, then I’m glad you were able to turn the musings of the brain into such a well written and educational blog piece. I appreciate being given suggestions for what to say. (As you know I like to give them too!)

    Thank you for educating us.

  3. Kendra May 21, 2010 at 5:20 am #

    A little bit of Jeff’s smirk is surrounding all who read this Kyle. Well done.

  4. Dede May 31, 2010 at 3:10 pm #

    Kyle–this is so well-written. It never even occurred to me, and I am interested in language. Thank you–you are such an inspiring person!

  5. stampylisa June 9, 2010 at 5:56 pm #

    This is very well written and part of the movement that walking in the Overnight, or the community walks, bring about. Change, awareness and hopefully a culture where making off hand remarks about suicide go away. No other explanation needed I’m sure. I too lost a brother to suicide in 1993, when he was almost 22 and I was 26. a lot has changed since then, but those of us who speak out about it are what will make changes to the world. Thank you for this post.

    • cloud9stuff June 9, 2010 at 11:16 pm #

      Dear Stampylisa,

      Thank you for your comments about my blog post. I just wanted to say that I’m really sorry that you lost your brother to suicide. He was so young and so were you. I certainly feel a special kinship to other sibling survivors of suicide and I just wanted you to know that I’m so sorry that your brother died. Sending you peace, Kyle

  6. Norman Tregenza June 21, 2010 at 2:08 pm #


    You are brave to bring this to others’ attention. You are taking an unfortunate event and creating positives from it.

    Regarding the illegality of suicide, I did not know that. I am able to adjust my language accordingly.

    God be with all the Freemans.

  7. Diane June 22, 2010 at 11:32 am #

    I lost my ex-husband to despair, and the sadness never disappears, or the suspicion that we might have done something to prevent it. My thinking brain says no, the collected pain had mounted for five decades and he had to find release. I just imagine what it must have been to be trapped in such anguish that ending his life became his only option. Thank you again, Kyle for your devotion to Jeff’s memory and for your commitment to useful action for all who feel trapped and all who love them.

  8. Jessica June 22, 2010 at 8:22 pm #

    Thank you Kyle for educating us about the history and the residual feelings that you, and others, feel when you hear hurtful language that surrounds your lose. I will add this to words that I teach students – I’ve had great opportunities to talk with students about hurtful language and I will gladly change my language and help you educate others about the meaning behind “committing suicide.”

  9. Kelly July 1, 2011 at 7:26 pm #

    Kyle, you are so right. I lost my younger brother to suicide five years ago almost to the day, and am still struck almost daily by the insensitivity of the discourse surrounding suicide. You do well to bring this to people’s attention. We are not as enlightened as we would like to think. Thanks for this.

  10. Shanno Loechner September 3, 2011 at 11:59 pm #

    Beautifully written and thank you so much. My husband’s sister took her life and a few years later while we were still trying to come to terms with such a terrible loss, my father also made the same decision and it rocked our world. We’re still trying to find our way back and every day is a little better but talking about it and advocating for compassion and understanding – and extending it to our language around suicide – is a powerful step toward reducing the stigma.

  11. Shaun Gawler April 10, 2012 at 7:40 pm #

    I do agree, when it comes to mental health issues suicide is not committed therefore it’s not a choice, the world is filled with ignorance and discrimination and I also get offended when I hear the phrase “commit”, I’m pretty sure your brother was a strong loving carering individual , I’m sorry for your loss but just try and look on the bright side

  12. Tony Stamps. January 20, 2013 at 8:35 pm #

    I hope Im not being insensitive here-thats most certainly not my intention but Im sorry I dont understand.Im extremely sorry to hear of your loss.I too have lost several relatives/friends over the years to suicide but have never thought that the word commited was wrong-it has always meant to me to pledge oneself to a course of action.Of course it is always used in connection with crime too but but thats not the only meaning and Im certain that most people dont hear it that way.I have to say that its unlikely that I will change my use of the phrase.It seems to me to be entirely accurate.Please,I hope you wont be hurt or offended by my choice.All strength to you.x

  13. Kathy January 21, 2014 at 8:16 pm #

    I had my own suicide attempt that failed (Thank God), I applaud your efforts to change the language and understanding. ‘Lost’ would be the most appropriate word to use when speaking of a loved one who died by suicide. I can only speak for myself, but know that I was lost, my faith was diminished, and I felt I could not fight anymore. Further to that, I felt that I was doing family members a favor. I’ve heard suicide victims referred to as ‘cowards’, and this enrages me. In an attempt to end one’s life, I fail to believe that it is ever done with malice. And most importantly to family members and friends, never assume ‘blame’, chances are there was nothing you could do.

  14. Sean January 22, 2014 at 2:08 am #

    I definitely agree with her idea here, but I don’t think I agree with her word choice. To commit just means to perform, it’s the actual
    -cide suffix that means killer. Suicide was considered the crime, and it’s the act one performs, so if anything I think we should change the term suicide to something less blameful because it calls the person a killer, and that places the person at more fault than the word commit.

  15. Mell January 22, 2014 at 5:08 pm #

    First off, I’m sorry for you loss. Losing a loved one is a pain second to none.

    My father committed suicide about eight years ago, and though I don’t understand your specific situation, I understand the pain. Now, I say committed on purpose. I found your article very interesting, and gave it a lot of consideration, but by the end, I share not your views on the words we use. I feel the way society perceives suicide, and not the use of the word committed, to be the place to make changes.
    Commit means many things, some of which is; to do, perform, or perpetrate. My father performed the act of suicide. I feel no shame or offense in the word personally, as it is a just a descriptor to get people talking about the things that matter most. Why he’s gone, how much I miss and love him, how priceless support can be in times of extreme distress etc.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me.

  16. Donna January 22, 2014 at 5:58 pm #

    Thank you for you commentary. Many of us say those words without thinking. I’
    m certainly going to change my vocab. thanks again.

  17. Sharon January 23, 2014 at 2:44 am #

    I have always thought that if those that pass away from suicide that if they could be given the chance a week after to come back to their life & see the devastation that is left behind & just how many people loved them & would do anything to help them that maybe the problems that drove them to what they found was the only way, just might have been able to be solved. I know my wish could never be granted. It would be awesome if it could, I am sure that a lot of friends & relatives that could would one again be with us.

  18. Peta February 17, 2014 at 6:23 am #

    Thank you for such a well written article. I just wanted to comment that I have never read so many thoughtful, considered and respectful replies. How nice that everyone can share their own stories after reading this article and have an opinion without judgement or malice being spoken. To all who have commented – in someway you have made me think about suicide from a different angle.

  19. christy April 11, 2014 at 5:51 am #

    I feel like dying and no one even notices. My brother died from suicide 2yrs ago. And right now my life is falling apart and I can not fix it. I feel helpless and overwhelmed. Pleas know you brother did not do this to hurt you guys at all. Just a mean to an end.

    • kylefreestyle April 11, 2014 at 5:27 pm #

      Dear, dear Christy. I’m so sorry you are suffering so acutely. I too suffer from depression and know very well the feeling of wanting to not endure it any more, and to die. It’s an excruciating feeling. So yes, for that reason I’ve never thought of my brother’s suicide as something he did too us. I saw it for sure as the fact that he simply could not endure the pain anymore. I would really encourage you to call a crisis hotline. Here’s the national number for suicide crisis hotline: 1-800-273-8255. I’ve done this before and it was so powerful and comforting to talk to someone who doesn’t know me, about the pain. But if you truly feel like you are a threat to yourself please, please let someone you know, know. Your belief that no one notices, or implied in that, that no one cares is just your depressive lens talking. I am certain that there is at least one person in your life who cares. And I am also certain that that person would want to know that you feel like dying. And I too am so sorry for the loss of your brother. Sending love and lots of prayers.

    • Jenny July 17, 2015 at 3:10 am #

      Christy love I attempted suicide & was very angry to survive that 1st day but vowed to myself that I would never try it again after meeting a lady who was severally handicapped after her little sister died by suicide & it felt like she had torn a large piece out of my body & soul & also left her entire family(including the children) in total wreckage for a very long time

  20. Jeff Walker July 28, 2014 at 10:21 am #

    I fully agree – my younger brother Michael took his own life a couple of years ago and I hate to hear people say he committed suicide. At the time of his death, the law was broken – the law that imposed a duty of care on the mental health services that so badly failed my brother.

    • kylefreestyle July 31, 2014 at 12:08 am #

      Hi Jeff, Thanks for your comment. I’m really sorry to year your lost your brother to suicide. And I totally hear you on how completely broken the system is. Sending you peace.

  21. Nancy Powers September 28, 2014 at 8:21 pm #

    I am 80 years old. My mother died of an overdose of sleeping pills 70 years ago. I struggled all my life to believe it was accidental, but the deep knowledge that it was suicide has never left me. The hurt and devastation I have carried with me throughout my long life that my mother could abandon me when I was ten years old are inestimable. But she was so sick with severe asthma, not being able to draw a breath, that she just gave up. She was only 36. I learned to forgive her thru therapy. The forgiveness that they wanted to leave us is harder than the grief. I forgive you, Mama.

    • kylefreestyle October 2, 2014 at 5:21 pm #

      Nancy, wow, I’m so touched by you sharing your absolutely heartbreaking story. Thank you. I’m so deeply sorry that you lost your dear mom when you were only ten years old. I can imagine why it’s taken a lifetime of work to learn how to forgive. I will keep both you and her in my heart. Best wishes Nancy.

  22. lisanoelani July 9, 2015 at 9:40 pm #

    Thank you Kyle, my brother also died by suicide and like Jeff, he was compassionate, intelligent, brave beyond words and so, so caring – too caring and sensitive for this world.
    I too dislike the term committed suicide and since my brother’s death (nearly four years now), do not use it. Even though I, like others, used to use it in reference to the commitment to the act, not consciously aware of the criminal implications. Your plea, so well written, has clarified my thoughts, thank you.
    And I’m so sorry for your loss, I feel alone about the loss of my brother. He was by far my closest friend and the only person who truly understood me (and vice versa). I don’t think society grasps the closeness of siblings, and underestimates how much their loss impacts.
    Best wishes, Lisa.

    • kyle.elizabeth.freeman July 10, 2015 at 11:17 pm #

      Dear Lisa, thank you for your thoughts and comment. I’m so sorry for the loss of your dear, kindred soul brother. It sounds like we both lost our hearts the day our brothers died. I’m with you in heart and spirit Lisa. Take good care.

    • kyle.elizabeth.freeman July 10, 2015 at 11:19 pm #

      Dear Lisa, thank you for your thoughts and comment. I’m so sorry for the loss of your dear, kindred soul brother. It sounds like we both lost our hearts the day our brothers died. I’m with you in heart and spirit Lisa. Take good care.

  23. Jamie Lee Silver July 11, 2015 at 4:37 am #

    How about “ended his life”?
    My sweet 22 -year -old son, just last week ended his life.
    Somehow that wording feels a little better to me.
    I will try on “resorted to” as well.
    Thank you
    Jamie Lee Silver

    • kyle.elizabeth.freeman July 13, 2015 at 3:36 pm #

      Oh Jamie, I am so profoundly sorry to hear about your young son. My heart aches for you. I think “resorted to” is a really good way to put it and I may try saying that as well.

  24. Chris July 12, 2015 at 1:57 am #

    Thank you for your enlightening perspective.
    I am sorry for your loss and will be mindful from now on. Sadly it will come into context again as another sweet soul makes that choice. Peace to your brother and you.

    • kyle.elizabeth.freeman July 13, 2015 at 3:37 pm #

      Hi Chris. Thank you for your kind comment. I really appreciate it. (In the last few days, there’s been a huge flurry of comments on this post, which I wrote 5 years ago so I’m curious how a bunch of people found this post recently. Do you mind telling me where you saw my post?)

      • Jenny August 23, 2015 at 3:57 pm #

        Kyle, your story is so touching. Best wishes to you and your family. I wanted you to know I read your post on Yahoo news. Take care.

  25. Zachary Lies July 12, 2015 at 5:50 am #

    “Dying by suicide” is even more of a BS euphemism. It’s like the police report saying an unarmed black man “died of gunshot wounds.” The latter was killed, the former killed himself. Most people who kill themselves do so because they are surrounded by ‘friends’ who payed so little attention that they never saw the numerous red flags/symptoms of impending suicide. If anyone “commits” a crime in relation to suicide, it’s all the ‘friends’ and relatives that were too busy with their own petty indignities, the same ones who later complain about how ‘painful’ it is to have known someone who killed themself. People who would rather write-off the deceased person’s actions to an “unwell mind” than admit that they themselves were part of the problem.

    • rrprewett July 14, 2015 at 7:58 pm #

      As someone who has probably come as close to committing suicide as possible while still remaining physically unscathed, and someone who has been suicidal at different times in the past, I think it is harsh and unfair to place a burden of blame on family and friends. Not all of us issue cries for help or send up red flags. Had I pulled the trigger all the way in my serious attempt — in other words, if God had not intervened — I would have left behind innocent, shocked, devastated, heartbroken and bewildered people who loved me and had no way of knowing of the events that almost destroyed me.

      They were neither busy with “petty indignities” nor part of my problem. They were simply human beings who lacked omniscience and couldn’t read minds.

    • Lana July 16, 2015 at 3:04 am #

      Zachary, someone who is committed to suicide will take great pains and plan the completion thereof at a time and in a place, when and where discovery is hopefully impossible under well after the fact. Someone who is committed to suicide has worn a happy mask for a long time, perhaps years and decades. A person who is committed to suicide will take great pains to hide his/her emotions, feelings, pain, despair. I would never lay blame on family and friends; except those who actively abused the person who suicided.

  26. JoanieH July 12, 2015 at 1:47 pm #

    People are driven to suicide by our culture, peer pressure, stigmatization and harassment, and sometimes by incompetent prescription of psychotropic medications that drives them into a pain level of 10 on a scale of 10 — and they see no hope or possibility of relief and death becomes their only imaginable way out. If any one “commits” suicide, they have been driven to it by maltreatment, or professional mistreatment, from a culture that claims civilization, but its actions are very barbaric, to say the least.

  27. Penny July 12, 2015 at 9:24 pm #

    Thank you for your comments on this subject. I have always referred to my husbands passing as he completed suicide or he left this world on his own terms. I always felt the word “committed” was attribute to criminals and nobody that completes the act of suicide is a criminal, they are a person who could not handle the pain be it mental of physical

    • kyle.elizabeth.freeman July 13, 2015 at 3:34 pm #

      Hi Penny. Thank you for your comment. And I’m so deeply sorry that your husband died by suicide. And I agree with everything you wrote.

      (In the last few days, there’s been a huge flurry of comments on this post, which I wrote 5 years ago so I’m curious how a bunch of people found this post recently. Do you mind telling me where you saw my post?)

      • Becky July 22, 2015 at 9:27 pm #

        The posted a link to your page. (I am not sure if anyone answered this yet)

      • Edie Lucas July 30, 2015 at 6:13 am #

        Kyle, your awesome article is being passed around by the AFSP Chapter located in Winston-Salem, NC. We are trying to educate people on the connotations of the word committed. BTW our OOTD Walk is October 24th and I can’t wait. So many wonderful connections are made. My mother died by suicide 25 yrs ago yesterday. So very sorry for the loss of your brother. My mother hid her feelings so well and was always laughing. Nix the blame game. Take care, Edie Marshall Lucas 🙂

  28. Annie July 12, 2015 at 11:47 pm #

    I am sorry that you are in pain about Jeff’s death. Nevertheless I do not agree with your point. I agree with the first comment from Lisa. People make a conscious choice and commit an act. ‘dying by’ implies a passive death. One dies of cancer. In this case one commits and act that results in their death.
    I have no idea what Shaun means about suicide not being a choice. If it isn’t something that is chosen it is an accident. Is he suggesting that dying by suicide is an accident?

  29. s.e. July 13, 2015 at 3:45 pm #

    Links to your post are popping up on fb this second week of july 2015

    • kyle.elizabeth.freeman July 13, 2015 at 5:45 pm #

      Thanks so much for solving the mystery for me S.E. !

  30. Beatrix Purtill July 13, 2015 at 4:59 pm #

    I recently lost the third person this way. The best wording I heard was “That B… chose to leave this World early , to stop her pain” it was a lovely way to put it. I agree with you. It is time to stop the stigma. Tbe World is a hard place to be in sometimes. Hugs

    • kyle.elizabeth.freeman July 23, 2015 at 4:08 am #

      Dear Beatrix, I’m so sorry you’ve lost 3 loved ones to suicide. And I also really appreciate that wording that you shared. So perfectly said. Thank you.

  31. Yolanda Peralez July 14, 2015 at 4:02 am #

    Thank you for sharing your story. I lost my son to suicide and you are definitely right. I used to say my son completed suicide, and people started telling me if I was ashamed to use the word “committed” suicide? I said NO, and used the word. I will now change my language and never let people tell me what to say. My son was a victim of suicide; a mental illness was not given the importance until now that many are being reported.

    • judy delmark July 14, 2015 at 9:38 am #

      i must say thank u for bringing this to the forefront. i lost two of my brothers to suicide, i always felt very uneasy when i said they “committed suicide “both my brothers were in such pain, in their minds this was their only option. the only crime committed was the time that their family missed having spent together with these two wonderful people. love u 2,
      your sis

      • kyle.elizabeth.freeman July 23, 2015 at 4:06 am #

        Dear Judy, I am so incredibly sorry that you lost not just one, but two brothers to suicide. That’s unimaginable. Sending you love.

    • Sally July 14, 2015 at 2:42 pm #

      My son did the same many years ago, I just say either he died “by suicide” or more frequently, “he took his own life”. I hate ‘completed suicide’ so mechanical, emotionless. And even more, I hate “I am a suicide survivor, the loved ones left behind.” I am the Mother of my son, not a suicide survivor!

      • kyle.elizabeth.freeman July 23, 2015 at 4:05 am #

        Dear Sally, I’m very sorry that you lost your son to suicide. And I love that you’ve reclaimed the clarity of simply being your son’s mother, which you will always, always be.

    • kyle.elizabeth.freeman July 23, 2015 at 4:07 am #

      Dear Yolanda, I’m so sorry that you lost your son to mental illness and suicide. Here’s to never letting people tell you what to say! Sending you love.

  32. Steve July 14, 2015 at 7:19 pm #

    I attempted in 1992 with some pretty drastic results, doctors repaired me quite well. I will never forget my Pastor came into the room where I was recuperating ,and said to me “the church forgives you”. What a line of crap and misinformation. There is nothing to forgive. I don’t mean any disrespect, but sane people do not take their lives. I am a Community Educator for SAVE (Suicide Awareness-Voices of Education). Their statement reads “The number one cause of suicide is untreated depression) The word committed to means people look at it as a crime..hardly!

    • kyle.elizabeth.freeman July 23, 2015 at 4:04 am #

      Hi Steve. Thanks for your comment. I’m so glad you are still here doing the awesome work that you are. Best wishes.

  33. Patti July 14, 2015 at 9:04 pm #

    I know exactly how you feel, my brother died at 39 years of age by his own hand. We wish every day , that he was still here with us, and like you, we wish we could have helped him see how much we loved him. I do not feel ashamed when people asked how he died, I feel sad, that he is not here. He has been gone for 14 years and there is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of him. I celebrate his life and feel blessed that I had him in my life for 39 years. He made us all laugh a lot, that was is gift to us and there are many stories will tell because of his wonderful sense a humor.

    • kyle.elizabeth.freeman July 23, 2015 at 4:03 am #

      Dear Patti, I’m very sorry that you lost your brother to suicide when he was 39. My heart is with yours.

  34. Kathy Montgomery July 15, 2015 at 1:48 am #

    I am so glad that you have made a choice to do this. My 35 year old son chose to end his life by suicide. I have had a problem for 4 years saying committed suicide. I don’t like it. I didn’t know I was not alone in my thinking. Thank you and god bless.

    • kyle.elizabeth.freeman July 23, 2015 at 4:01 am #

      Dear Kathy. I am so sorry that you lost your son to suicide four years ago. Sending you much love.

  35. Gab July 15, 2015 at 3:53 am #

    I think when you are personally affected by a tragedy you realise just how much a simple saying or term used so widely can affect the way you think and feel about things. When my partner passed away I was widowed with 3 children and the term ‘single mother’ grated on me and left me feeling miserable…. Im my mind I wasn’t single and I would much prefer to be called a ‘sole parent’ as I was parenting on my own…

    • kyle.elizabeth.freeman July 23, 2015 at 4:01 am #

      Hi Gab. Thank you for your comment. I am so sorry that your partner died. Sending you love.

  36. Rb July 15, 2015 at 6:57 am #

    You commit to your partner, you commit to pay your mortgage, you commit to losing weight. You don’t commit to suicide, you succumb to it.

    • kyle.elizabeth.freeman July 23, 2015 at 4:00 am #

      Amen. So perfectly said. Thank you Rb…

  37. Pinkelstien July 15, 2015 at 6:58 am #

    Kyle, thank you so much for this article. I’m glad that I am not the only one who thinks we should change the language and perceptions about mental illness and suicide.

  38. Kirsten July 15, 2015 at 10:16 am #

    I don’t like the word committed either I also don’t like the word suicide. As someone who has fought depression her whole life and made a few attempts at suicide as well I detest people who say that someone who takes their own life has taken the easy way out and were weak. This is so far from the truth. To try to live in constant pain from the inside is the hardest thing to do. The pain and loneliness of depression can only be understood by people who are suffering from it. Friends and love ones should never blame themselves and I know it is so hard for them to not think that there had to be something they could have done but the reality is there is nothing you could have done. Most people with depression find it hard to talk about how they’re feeling. And unfortunately in my experience people want to help and say if you need to talk they will be there, but when it comes down to it people don’t want to hang around with people who bring them down all the time so you stop talking and start acting like people expect you to while on the inside you are hurting and screaming with no solution that can fix it and sometimes the thought and the feeling of experiencing this pain every day gets too much or one small thing triggers more pain and makes you desperate. So suicide is never easy. It is hard for the average person to understand the world of depression. The pain follows you where ever you go, you can’t treat it with a band aid it is something that is with you from the time you go to bed till you wake up. It is so refreshing to read so many lovely things being said to each other. The best thing anyone can do to help others in this situation is to listen. Not every problem can be solved but just listening to someone unload their feelings can be the best medicine and all most of us want is someone to just sit there and listen then let us have a good cry then give us a hug. It will not solve the problem but can make someone feel a little better for a little while. I feel for anyone out there who is suffering depression or suffering the loss of a loved one. I have also lost someone to suicide so I know how that feels too. Good luck too all of you, and I am sending you all big hugs.

    • kyle.elizabeth.freeman July 23, 2015 at 3:59 am #

      Dear Kirsten,
      Thank you for taking the time to share so honestly and openly. I heard everything you said, and I totally get it. I also struggle with depression, and I’ve felt all of what you wrote at different times. Keep on sharing your story and your feelings – the world needs to hear them. Sending love.

  39. Teddy July 15, 2015 at 12:21 pm #

    I thought it referred to committing a sin.
    Like a crime and your right that’s horrible
    I’ll change my language from now.

  40. Robin July 15, 2015 at 5:45 pm #

    In the early hours on June 1 2014, I calmly sat down next to my bed and took enough prescription medication to send my soul back to heaven. As I lay back down, I say to myself, I am sleeping now. A family member came to wake me later that same morning to discover what I had done. Upon realizing I did not die and go to heaven, I called my father who lives a few moments away and told him, and then I passed out. Twelve days later after my recovery I am on my way home. People in general do not understand what would drive someone like Robin Williams to end his life, although most people are willing to openly discuss the (what four’s) and (how come’s) of his death. It is not the same for the common person who survives, most stare at their feet not knowing what to say, while other become judge and jury. It is best to keep those discussions to the behavioral therapist that is assigned as a condition of release from the place where all the doors are locked, and the fence is 15 ft. tall. What did I learn from the worse choice a human can make? More than can be said in this comment. What I will share is, stay in the here and now, the present. Nothing can change the past and the future is not here yet, with daily moment-by-moment awareness of thoughts, it can be done. In my case, the correct medications were necessary, through the process of my re-birth I discovered I suffered an event at the age of seven that changed the course of my life for the rest of my life. No matter what the circumstances, whether a soul survives or passes through the veil, the subject will not be openly discussed or understood; until humans loose their fear of death and remember life is a circle, not a dead-end. As for the language used to describe this desperate, out of control situation, only words said with empathy (the ability to put one’s self in their place) instead of sympathy (words used to disconnect one’s self from the situation) are truly acceptable in my humble opinion.

    • kyle.elizabeth.freeman July 23, 2015 at 3:56 am #

      Dear Robin, thank you so much for sharing a bit of your story. It was powerful to read. And I’m so glad that you’re still here, sharing your story honestly with others which WILL make a difference in the world. Keep being brave in your honesty. Sending much love your way.

  41. SummerMarie July 15, 2015 at 8:25 pm #

    I am a Resolve-Through-Sharing Bereavement Coordinator, trained in Perinatal, as well as Pediactric and Adult Bereavement. In the adult courses, there is specific attention pid to this language. We are taught the distress that the word “committed” brings to loved ones and the memories of the ones gone, and guided toward using the terms “completed suicide” in a medical setting. Hopefully your message will fall on many ears.

  42. gymeagary July 16, 2015 at 2:43 am #

    Kyle thanks so much for the useful post and the extremely useful string of replies. As a Lifeline Crisis Supporter I talk to potential suicides, survivors, supporters and grievers for those they have lost and there is just the same spectrum of responses to language used as shown here.
    About the sudden increases in interest – Lifeline posted a link to your Blog on Facebook, with this comment “This is an interesting, personal article highlighting the importance of using appropriate and thoughtful language in relation to suicide.” It’s had 522 Likes and 222 Shares in 21 hours!
    I really appreciate the caring way you have responded to those in pain on your link.

    • kyle.elizabeth.freeman July 23, 2015 at 3:54 am #

      Hi there. Thanks so much for shedding light on how this post suddenly got around! Thank you all so for the wonderful work you do by working as a crisis supporter. Take good care. Kyle

  43. Marcia Benoit July 16, 2015 at 4:09 am #

    My father, a WWII Navy veteran and later a fireman, died from suicide when I was 10 years old. He suffered from PTSD post war and depression. He felt we would be better off without him. I agree wth you in changing the terminolgy. He died from suicide, not committed suicide.

    • kyle.elizabeth.freeman July 23, 2015 at 3:52 am #

      Hi Marcia, I’m so sorry that you lost your dad to suicide at such a young age. What a brutal loss for you. Sending love your way.

  44. Brian July 16, 2015 at 6:04 am #

    Hi, appreciate the sensitivity of that you have displayed to this topic. I too have been touched by family member committing suicide. I still say committing suicide and I appreciate that we all have different views on the many is a different words. I look at the word suicide is an act and therefore to complete the act one must commit to the act. Hence why I say committed. Also like the word committed primarily because unlike others, I believe it takes great courage to take your own life. To me this shows commitment, where others may deem it to be lack of courage, in ending your life so one can end the pain.

    That said, I did like your blog entry and found it quite compelling. But, I hope you will not mind that some of us will still continue to use the word “committed”.

    • kyle.elizabeth.freeman July 23, 2015 at 3:51 am #

      Hi Brian – I’m very sorry that you’ve lost a loved one to suicide. Of course I understand why for some people the language of commitment resonates, like it does for you. Thanks for reading and thinking about all of this. Take care.

  45. eXDax July 16, 2015 at 7:24 am #

    It was my understanding that suicide is still a crime today…

  46. Brittany July 17, 2015 at 5:08 pm #

    Thank you for this. I’ve had some difficulty saying that my dad “committed” suicide because I felt like it was saying he was a criminal or a defector of his faith when in fact he was a sick man who made a decision. Every time I’ve said it or heard someone say it, I cringe but didn’t know how to remedy it. So I thank you.

  47. Brittany July 17, 2015 at 5:14 pm #

    Do you have a suggestion on a word other than victim to use? I really hate saying suicide victim.

    • kyle.elizabeth.freeman July 23, 2015 at 3:49 am #

      Hi Brittany. I wish I had a good thought on that but no real good ideas. Wishing you peace.

  48. Chris Turek July 19, 2015 at 1:49 am #

    Whether my brother “committed” suicide or “died by suicide” does not matter to me. He is gone all the same. It’s all semantics to me. I am not shamed by his manner of death. I am sad and still confused by his act and miss him terribly. Words only have power over you if you allow it. I am not ashamed to talk to anyone about his choice. I only wish we could have helped.

  49. Celeste July 21, 2015 at 8:30 pm #

    Thanks so much for this. I feel exactly the same way about everything you wrote. My brother died by suicide in 2008 and I have changed my language since then. It really does make a difference. Thank you!

    • kyle.elizabeth.freeman July 23, 2015 at 3:48 am #

      Hi Celeste, I’m so sorry you too lost your brother to suicide. My heart is with yours.

  50. Teresa August 5, 2015 at 4:05 pm #

    If it makes you feel better I think of it in a different way, I think of it as they committed to the suicide, the follow through of the suicide. Because when we say a committed spouse it is no negativity associated to the word committed.

  51. Jenna October 25, 2015 at 2:22 am #

    Thank you for your article. I too, lost my brother to suicide. Our language and use of words is so important. I also choose not to say “committed” for the same reasons that you do. The stigma associated with a suicide death is what we need to work to change. And the way we talk about it is te first step.

  52. Alaine hall January 31, 2016 at 12:57 am #

    i a free completely with thinking about the language we use around suicide. Do you think you would think about removing the word insane in your article as many people with mental find there are other words that are better choices to use.

    Thank you for this post , it is conversations such as these that provoke thought and generate conversation

  53. Suzanne February 1, 2016 at 3:07 am #

    You are so right. There are not many families who have not been affected with a suiside, or attempt, it is a difficult period that some of our loved ones go through.

    To try and help is the biggest task, and only few of family members succeeded in getting our loved ones , receive help to try and prevent the action so desired in many young people in this weak time in their lives.

    Thank you for sharing your lost in the life of your brother.

    Take care Suzanne

  54. Sheila June 21, 2016 at 7:27 pm #

    One of my best friends died 5 years ago by suicide, but I like to say that he died of depression. Like you would say about someone who died of lung cancer. You wouldn’t say they died by smoking would you? My point is name the disease, not the act. That’s what we do with every other illness. Just an idea….

  55. Carlene Hunter July 15, 2016 at 2:54 am #

    ‘Unassisted Deceasing’ would be a better terminology for permanent records, language and reports, and in depth information related could be sub for investigative purposes and such.
    A big stigma attached to a word …time to release the victim and the people’s effected.
    Blessings for the future.

  56. Jutta Lammerts January 17, 2017 at 11:30 pm #

    Thank you, thank you. As a psychiatrist by training, I feel the same way as you do and say. Suicide out of depression is not a voluntary act or decision by choosing; it seems to be the only way out of unspeakable suffering for the patient. We just lost a dear colleague to depression and suicide, and it would never occur to me to put any blame on a person who has struggled and fought so valiantly until the illness overpowered him.

  57. fig4159 July 11, 2017 at 10:59 am #

    I’d written a long post about a friend and former neighbor who, about 10 years ago, chose to leave this world with her 27 year old daughter. It was finished, and I was about to hit POST, when I remembered a poem I’d read that I felt should be shared here. So I didn’t lose what I’d written, I copied it first, knowing the iPad would reload this page.

    Too late! Without thinking, I copied the poem’s URL – then remembered that my grandson had called me last night just as I was about to download a clipboard manager. All I’d written was gone.

    All I can offer now is this poem, which I think should be required annual reading, starting in middle school/junior high. I apologize in advance to anyone who may disagree with my assessment.

    One more thing: I wasn’t raised in any faith and I’ve never been religious, but there’s only ONE THING about which I have NO DOUBT: we really ARE spiritual beings having a human (learning) experience. We’re all reincarnated many times, so don’t be too sad! Our loved ones have been with us through countless lives, and they’ll continue to be with us until we’ve both learned the lessons we came here to teach each other.

    Kyle, my son sent me this link, which was posted on his Facebook page. He grew up with the daughter I mentioned at the beginning of the post.

  58. Gwen Matthews March 3, 2019 at 10:27 pm #

    I can not believe how much alike we look… I can not stop staring at your picture.
    I lost my son to suicide 7/7/16, it’s so incredibly heartbreaking our loved ones were so sad!

    • GBC March 4, 2019 at 4:48 am #

      Hi Gwen. I’m so sorry to hear about your son. That’s devastating. (Also, now I’m intrigued about what you look like to see if I see the similarity! 🙂 (If you want to send me a photo, you can email to


  1. Share and Share Alike | Client Name - August 2, 2017

    […] Please Stop Saying “Committed” Suicide 2. Real advice for those who’ve attempted suicide, and want to step back into life | TED Blog 3. […]

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