There is still a stigma related to suicide, born of hundreds of centuries of misinformation and misunderstanding of mental illness. Many people find the subject of suicide difficult and will make every effort to avoid it. Many survivors struggle with what to tell others.
In the past, many survivors felt isolated, without the opportunity to speak about their loved one. Today, survivors generally are able to acknowledge that their loved one died by suicide and be listened to with compassion. Courageous survivors who have shared their loss, have paved the way for others to share long-concealed stories of suicide in their own families. Ultimately, each survivor must decide what feels right to share with others.
One remaining source of stigma is the stereotyping and misunderstanding of mental illness and suicide. Many people mistakenly conclude that mental illnesses stem from severe family dysfunction or weakness of character. In most cases, nothing could be further from truth. Mental illnesses typically develop in the same way as other genetic illnesses like cancer, diabetes or heart disease. Sadly, sometimes in retrospect, we see that our loved one suffered from a terminal mental illness.
Raising Consciousness by How We Speak
There is currently a movement to raise consciousness about the language we use to describe suicide. Some believe expressions such as "committed suicide" and even "completed suicide" perpetuate an historical stigma that is irrelevant to our understanding of brain and biochemical illnesses such as depression. They suggest "died by suicide" or "died from suicide" are better choices.
A similar concern exists for the idea and wording that an individual "chooses to die by suicide." In question is whether, given our current paradigm of mental illness as a leading factor for suicide, the word "choice" is appropriate. If a person is suffering a deep depression or other mental illnessis he or she really "choosing.?"