An observation in terminology




  1. perpetrate or carry out (a mistake or crime).
  2. pledge or bind (a person or an organization) to a certain course or policy.

What connotations do you have with the word commit?

On one side you can place it in the context of intention, purpose, dedication. When you marry somebody you commit yourself to them and them alone (at least in theory).

From my experience, whenever I have tried to kill myself I have found a very distinct lack of purpose and intention. I did not want to die, but I could not handle living. Killing myself did not seem like a solid choice that I wanted to commit myself to.

Another spin has leans very heavily on immorality and crime; you commit a murder, you commit fraud.

The 1961 Suicide Act decriminalised the act of suicide. Just under sixty years ago I would have been incarcerated and classed as a criminal because I tried to take my own life. Don’t get me wrong I have done plenty of stupid things but the thought of being imprisoned when I was at the lowest point of my life, when I needed help the most is absolutely terrifying.

So why do we still use the phrase ‘commit suicide’?

I’m a bit of a sucker for language. I love that we as a species have created such a rich and complex vocabulary across the globe. It also really grinds my gears when people use language incorrectly. No joke, I knew somebody who had been using the phrase ‘pacifically’ wrong for 23 years.

“I don’t pacifically remember where I put them keys”


It’s a bit rich coming from somebody who is pretty hard to understand and can barely string a sentence together. However, my back really gets up when I hear the phrase ‘commit suicide’ and I will probably correct it when I hear it.

It’s the wrong word to use. It is no longer a crime to attempt to take your own life so let’s try and change the connotations.

I didn’t need judgement when I was at my lowest. I needed understanding.

I didn’t need pity after I tried to kill myself I needed honesty.

I’m not saying I’m gonna jump down the throat of whomever may utter this heinous collection of syllables, but I hope to educate where I can. If we still talk about suicide using these incorrect terms, how can we ever hope to open up the discussion on how to avoid it?

I’ll talk about it to anybody stupid enough to listen to me. I own my suicide. It stripped away everything I thought I was important and I was left with just two questions that I still ask myself every morning.

What do you want to be?


How are you going to get there?

One day at a time.

4 thoughts on “An observation in terminology

  1. Gail Rowley says:

    You’re quite right Nick, and there’s a double whammy going on here, as the word commit in this sense still implies a crime, and so does the word suicide in itself. Its literal meaning is from the Latin sui = oneself and caedere = to kill. But in modern usage, anything with the suffix -cide is used to describe a criminal act – homicide, fratricide, genocide etc. So shouldn’t we have come up with a better word in the 60 years since suicide was decriminalised?


  2. sharon Simpson says:

    I also agree Nick… as a practitioner working with a busy Crisis team we read this terminology several times a day and ask that specific question… each time i change those words as i find that there is no emotion connected to it….
    enjoy your travels through life my love….


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