Suicide Concepts & Terminology

When suicide touches close to home or you are in a position to help someone who is contemplating suicide understanding a few terms and concepts will benefit you.

Committed suicide:

  • It is common to say “you commit a robbery” or “commit a murder”.  The word “committed” reinforces the stigma associated with suicide.  When you look at the reasons for the increased risk of suicide, is it necessary to add to the pain and grief survivors of suicide death experience?

Died by suicide:

  • It is common to hear “my child died of cancer” or “my husband died in a car accident”. When talking about suicide death, saying “my child died by suicide” opens the door to grieve without being judged by others.  As a society, the words we choose to use shape the meaning and intent of the meaning being implied.


Family history of suicide loss:

  • There is no hereditary proof that suicide runs in families.  The concept of similar coping patterns when dealing with stress related concerns or depression may be taught or observed from generation to generation.

Motivation to die:

  • Include the reasons for wanting to die by suicide. Are there recent triggering events such a death or something perceived to be unbearable to live with at the time?  Is there a belief system around death?  Revenge, release from psychological or physical pain.  No perceived reason to live.

Past suicidal acts

  • Past self-harm or suicide attempts may be a predictor of future suicidal attempts.


  • To what degree are plans made, what access to the means (pills, gun, etc) of continuing to carry out this plan are available?  Are elements such as timing, location, and acquiring the means completed?  Has a suicide note been written?  A greater risk of suicide is apparent when there is more detail to the plan.

Suicidal ideation:

  • Are the thoughts a person has of suicide such as having a plan, their reason and incentive for suicide.

Suicide risk for some people increases with

  • Alcohol abuse, abortion, pregnancy, major mental disorders, depression, bipolar, personality disorders, anxiety or panic attacks, anorexia nervosa and adding childhood sexual abuse into the mix also increases the suicide risk.

Please read some of the other blog articles on suicide to have a better understanding of suicide.