Words from Katie Bagosy:
As we embark on Suicide Awareness Month, this is bound to ruffle some feathers…
Suicide: Committed or Completed?
I’ve seen a big push over the last couple of years to change the language from "committed suicide" to "completed suicide." It seems that a lot of suicide survivors are offended by the word “committed” because it sounds too criminal (and once was), but to be honest, it just feels like another false attempt at being overly politically correct. I understand the intent is to help reduce the stigma as it is often misunderstood and judged very harshly.
Using the word "commit" denotes a crime, and those who have died by suicide didn’t actually commit a crime. Or did they? Sure it was against themselves, but their actions still ended their lives. If someone takes a gun to another person it's murder. They killed another person. They committed an act that resulted in the death of another human being. But the only difference with suicide is the victim.
Let's think about the word commit. We don't say someone completed murder. We say they committed murder because of the finality of it. When two people get married we say they made a commitment to each other – that they are committed to each other (whether or not they stay committed is an entirely different topic, but the intent is there). My neighbors are moving and after they signed a contract to lease their house another couple offered to pay double. But they wouldn’t break the contract because they had already committed to it.
I understand the connotation is slightly different, but I almost find "completed" suicide to weaken the severity and finality of what has been done. I am all about fighting the stigma of suicide and think we need more open discussions about it. I also think that suicide is a cold, dark black hole that leaves an unfillable void and lifelong ripple effects that never end. Suicide is a bleak reality. Let's not lighten that.
I believe the push to use completed vs committed is to ease our own pain, to comfort the survivors, but does it send the right message? I hear completed and think accomplished: She completed the marathon she’s been training for. He completed his Thesis for his doctorate. I think the verbiage could potentially be more damaging.
I'll still try to remember to use completed for those who seem offended by committed, but when it comes to my everyday usage and specifically my husband, I'll be sticking with committed because he did commit to it. The moment he made the final decision to pull that trigger, he made a commitment and there was no backing out. He also committed our children to a life without a father; he committed me to being his widow and raising our children without him.
There are some who would say, "But did he Really make the choice?" Well, that depends on your view point. Some argue that no matter what his mental state was he still made the choice, while others take the complete opposite stance. My position is one that varies based on the situation. Some people do not have the true mental capacity to fully understand their actions, others are so overwrought with pain that they end their lives in a desperate moment. Still others make the choice because of circumstances in life that they do not want to deal with. Regardless of the reasons behind the suicide, I don't personally think it has much influence as to which word choice is used when it comes to someone ending their own life, but if word choice does have a strong impact then should we paint it as something to be accomplished or something that makes one feel uncomfortable when they hear the word? I opt for the latter.
Our focus should be on discussing what leads people to make the decision to follow through with suicide, and ways to combat it such as mental health awareness, open discussions, being more non-judgmental, expressing how brave it is to take that huge and scary step to ask for help, friends reaching out when they see red flags, education on the issue, and most of all being more loving towards others because we all have unseen struggles and may never know the impact of a kind word or gesture. Sometimes all it takes is one moment of compassion to save a life.