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  • Approved for CNN

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    Posted April 4, 2013 by
    ErinShwatty
    Assignment
    Assignment
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Going public with mental illness

    More from ErinShwatty

    Stop saying 'committed' suicide

     

    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     ErinShwatty was 25 when her brother died in February 2010, a few weeks shy of his 21st birthday. She started a blog, 4 The Love of Evan, two years ago to bring meaning to his life and educate others about the warning signs of suicide. 'Contrary to popular belief, suicide is rarely an impulsive act caused by one event, like losing a job or breaking up with a girlfriend. Suicide is the result of many complex factors that create a "perfect storm."'

    Read Erin Schwantner's powerful essay on her brother's suicide on CNN.com
    - dsashin, CNN iReport producer

    Would you ever say that your loved one “committed cancer” or “committed a heart attack”? Sounds strange, right? This is how it feels to hear people say that your loved one committed suicide, implying that they should be blamed for their illness.

    Until my brother’s death in February 2010, I had no awareness for the language used to describe suicide. But now when I hear “committed suicide,” it feels like nails on a chalkboard; I literally shudder.

    Historically, suicide was treated as a criminal act in many parts of the world. Thank goodness the laws have changed, but our language has not caught up. The shame associated with the committal of a crime remains attached to suicide, like a painful residue. But I do not own any shame for how my brother died. He did not commit a crime. He resorted to suicide, which he perceived in his unwell mind to be the only possible solution to end his suffering caused by a very dark and deep depression. In fact, 90% of people who die by suicide – repeat: die by suicide (this is the correct language) – have a diagnosable and treatable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death, most commonly depression.

    So please, stop saying committed suicide. Think of how you would describe that you lost someone to any other illness. Like cancer or heart disease, suicide is a public health issue. By adjusting our language around suicide, we can change its stigma and reduce the shame carried by some survivors of suicide.

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