Updated: Jun 18, 2020
“When attaching the word ‘committed’, it further discriminates against those who lost their battle against a disease”
Dan Riedenberg (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education)
The shocking news of the death of the famous actor Sushant Singh Rajput has left many feeling sorrow and confusion on this day. For his family this news must be even more heart-breaking than for all of us who were merely spectators in his life. A death by suicide.
Many at various social media platforms and even the news media still use the word ‘committed suicide’. The problem with this phrase is that it perpetuates stigma and blame on the person who ‘committed’ it. The word committed is often associated with crime or illegal things for example, committed murder, committed a felony or committed a sin and thus using it in the context of suicide makes the act of suicide seem immoral or legally wrong evoking negative feelings towards the person and further blaming them more.
Simply put using the word ‘committed’ makes us see the act as wrong or shameful and often ignores the reason or pathology behind why someone did what they did. Using such language reduces the importance of what caused the person to do so and in turn undermines or doesn’t address the mental health problems that actually led the person to dying by suicide. Yes, ‘dying by suicide’ just like someone ‘dies from a heart attack’. Changing the vernacular is increasingly important to provide support to those in need and to those who may be in a vulnerable position or those suffering from mental distress/disorders. Some of the more sensitised vernacular includes ‘died by suicide’, ‘suicide death’, ‘suicide attempt’ instead of unsuccessful attempt, ‘person living with suicidal thoughts or behaviour’ instead of suicide ideator or attempter and ‘working with’ instead of dealing with suicidal crisis. Using sensitive words gives people an opportunity to feel safe and open up more about some of the mental health issues they may be facing. By blaming someone for their suicide, we are removing our attention from the problems they were suffering from and simply putting blame on them for the action they took which was probably a culmination of a lot of issues and suffering they had in life. It is talking like this which leads to the importance of mental health being reduced. The news talking about Sushsant Singh Rajput having a great career and money only shows how many people do not understand how depression works. Mental health struggles are often silent and they can happen to anyone no matter how successful they are in life, how much money they have, how good a family they have or how well they seem externally. One can never know what’s going on inside a person and that is exactly where mental health problems lie.
Constantly try to check up on those close to you, notice any changes in behaviours, in patterns, notice a change in their eating, sleeping, talking, notice if there is any reduction in pleasurable activities; these are all signs of depression and could be signs of suicidal thoughts. It is time we change our vernacular, we become more sensitised to all people and it is time we accept and understand mental health issues more openly. Anyone feeling low these days, having any kinds of negative thoughts, reach out to your friends or family. Some external help is also available like AASRA, Roshni and Cooj which are 24/7 telephonic operators who will talk to you. Be sensitive to people, be good to people, check up on your close ones regularly specially in times like this with a pandemic and uncertain futures, only we can help each other out. It is time mental health stops being a stigma and people can talk freely about it and not be scared to get help.
By - Tanya Chandra
Feature image by - Yastika Shetty