The field of suicide prevention is ever-changing as new research emerges informing best practice. Some suicide-related terms often used among the general population have been found to increase stigma related to suicide and/or give or imply a false assumption about suicide leading to misunderstanding of those who are suicidal. Increased stigma and general misunderstandings are both detrimental to the field of suicide prevention. Below are basic guidelines to keep in mind when speaking or writing about suicide.
Terms to Avoid
“Committed suicide” – This gives the false impression suicidal people are committed to completing suicide.
Most, even highly, suicidal people are ambivalent about their deaths because they do not desire death.
They want an end to their sever emotional pain and are unable to see another way to end it. “Committed” is also usually
associated with sins or crimes and carries stigma.
Terms to Use Instead
“Completed suicide” or “died by suicide”
Terms to Avoid:
“Successful” or “failed” suicide attempt – It is detrimental to associate suicide with success or failure as they imply
favorable or inadequate outcomes.
Terms to Use Instead
“Completed suicide” and “attempted suicide"
Terms to Avoid:
“Suicide Epidemic”– Though the impact of suicide on those left in its wake may make it seem so, suicide is not at
epidemic levels and using such overstatements can lead vulnerable individuals to normalize suicide when, in fact,
death by suicide is statistically rare.
Terms to Use Instead:
"Suicide is a critical public health issue"
Common Beliefs vs. Facts
Suicide prevention research has also shed light on commonly held but false beliefs about suicide. These beliefs can
add to stigma and misunderstanding and may hamper our willingness or abilities to intervene with suicidal individuals.
Common Belief: Those with serious suicide ideation are committed to dying.
Fact: Most suicidal individual are highly ambivalent right up until the last moments.
Common Belief: Suicide is not preventable.
Fact: Research tells us that at least 90% of those who die by suicide had a mental health and/or substance use disorder.
These conditions are treatable. Additionally,most suicide experts maintain that warning signs for suicide are present close to 100% of the time.
Common Belief: If you stop someone from completing suicide by one means, they will just find another way.
Fact: Method substitution rarely occurs. Thus restricting access to lethal means is a highly effective.
Common Belief: Suicide is an impulsive act.
Fact: Though impulsivity can play a role in some suicidal behavior among teens, suicide is not an impulsive act.
Those who die by suicide have a plan to do so.
Common Belief: Suicides can have a single cause.
Fact: Suicide is complex and occurs when diverse risk factors lead to a combination of interpersonal elements
resulting in the desire and capability for suicide.
Common Belief: Those who threaten suicide are just seeking attention.
Fact: All threats of suicide must be taken seriously. Approximately 70% of those who die by suicide make direct
or indirect statements related to their suicidality. Additionally, those who go so far as to threaten suicide do require attention.
Common Belief: Suicide is a selfish act.
Fact: Though the act of suicide may feel selfish to those left behind, those who die by suicide have come to believe that they are a burden to those around them and that their death would be worth more than their life to them.
Common Belief: Suicide is a common response to bullying.
Fact: Suicide is not a common response to bullying. Suicide is not a common response to any one factor because suicide is not common. Deaths to suicide are statistically rare. Bullying is one among many risk factors for suicide.
Common Belief: Teens should know all about suicide.
Fact: Suicide prevention education for teens and young adults is indeed very important; however, because young brains are not fully developed, such education is only safe when presented under certain circumstances:
Use safe and effective curricula
Gather only in small groups
Use positive messaging/Promote hope, help and strength
Avoid discussions of statistics or methods
Maintain an adequate number of knowledgeable adults to watch for vulnerable youth
Provide ways to seek help for friends and self
Although completed suicide is statistically rare, Idaho continually has some of the highest suicide rates in the U.S. In 2014, Idaho ranked 9th in number of suicides deaths per capita with a crude suicide rate of 19.6 deaths per 100,000 population. In 2015, Idaho’s rate is 21.9. Idaho’s rate is increasing and a higher rate than the national rate as shown in Table 1 below.
Idaho’s 2015 suicide rate is 21.9 suicide deaths per 100,000 populations. The rate of suicides in Idaho per capita is increasing at a higher rate than the national rate, as shown in Table 1.
Rate:number of deaths per 100,000 population.
Percent change: (Current year age-adjusted rate-prior year age-adjusted rate)/ (prior year age-adjusted rate)*100
U.S. data Source: NCHS Vital Statistics System for numbers of deaths. Bureau of Census for population estimates.
Table 2 shows that death by suicide is more common among males than females, but both genders surpass the national average in Idaho and are increasing at a more rapid rate than the national average.
Rate per 100,000 population. Source: Bureau of Vital Records and Health Statistics, 2015 data
Between 2011 and 2015, 102 school-age children died by suicide, 24 of whom were 14 or younger, and in that same span of time, 166 college-age youth (19-24) died by suicide in Idaho. See Table 4.