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Talking About Suicide

July 21, 2017

Yesterday, on July 20, 2017, Chester Bennington, the lead singer for Linkin Park, died by suicide.  When well known people die, the issues that they faced and the way they died is publically shared and discussed.  We’d like to share some information as part of that discussion. 

The American Association of Suicidology (AAS) reminds us that we can never speculate as to a single cause for a suicide. There is always a combination of complicated factors. What we do know is that every suicide death significantly affects over 100 people.  It may surprise you to know that more than half of Americans personally know someone who has died by suicide, however you do not have to know someone personally to be impacted by a suicide. We are all affected when a celebrity to whom we feel connected ends their life.

Exposure to suicide, especially to close relations or beloved public figures, can increase risk and this can be particularly concerning when we know someone who has struggled with suicidal thoughts or behaviors in the past.  It can be helpful to be aware of those around you, check in with them, ask them how they are coping, and ask them how you can help.

If you are personally affected, please reach out to Foundation 2 or a crisis center in your community and seek support.   You can find more information regarding surviving a suicide loss here.  There is help for those experiencing a crisis or suicidal thoughts.  If you or someone you know needs support, we are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week providing crisis phone support and mobile crisis outreach counseling.  Connect with us by calling (319) 362-2174 locally, 1-800-332-4224 statewide, or by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

In the media coverage of Chester’s death, we have seen articles stating that Chester “committed suicide.”  As the field of suicide prevention changes and grows, terminology also changes and certain words have been replaced with more appropriate, sensitive words that communicate the same thing.  Using the word “Committed” when talking about suicide is one of those terms that has evolved over time.  The preferred word choice for “committed suicide” is now “died by suicide,” a more empathetic way to communicate that someone has died by taking their own life in order to end the mental and emotional pain they are experiencing.  Foundation 2 believes that language has power and word choices are important and educating the public on terminology is part of our role in the suicide prevention and response movement.

Below are general suggestions for sensitive language to use when discussing suicide.

  • Use “suicide attempt” when non-fatal action taken with the intent to die.
  • Use “died by suicide” rather than  “committed suicide” or “suicided”
  • Use “suicide loss survivor” to describe someone grieving the loss of someone who died by suicide.
  • Use “suicide attempt survivor” when referring to someone who has survived a suicide attempt.

In closing, everyone plays a role in suicide prevention.  If you are concerned that someone you know may have thoughts of suicide, learn more about warning signs here.  Our counselors can provide you with tips to start the conversation as well by simply calling any of the phone numbers shared above.

Together we support those in crisis.

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