Dear Journalists in Colorado:
My name is Renee and I am pursuing a graduate degree in marriage and family therapy at Regis University.  I graduated from Metropolitan State University with a degree in journalism.  And, I am actively engaged in social media.
Most importantly, I am an intern at a local non-profit grief therapy center for children and families and several family members are grieving the death of someone who died by suicide.
We choose to say “died by suicide” rather than “committed suicide” when reporting deaths by suicide and I am wondering if you could also decide to change the language journalists use when reporting on suicide deaths?  One leading local media source in Denver has responded to my request and I am wondering if you will consider it as well?
Rather than saying “committed suicide”, would you say “died by suicide”?  Journalists report that a person “died of cancer” or “died from heart complications” or “died in a car accident”.
Changing the language to died by suicide allows the opportunity to consider factors related to mental health and to exercise sensitivity and care when reporting responsibly.  The word “committed” implies that the person committed an act that was wrong (“committed a crime”, committed adultery”, “committed fraud”) .  Changing the term to “died by” allows the opportunity to consider that this person struggled with symptoms of mental illness.  We will never fully understand the pain that someone experiences before successfully ending their life.  But, we can help to alleviate the pain of the loved ones they left behind by reducing the stigma around suicide and creating opportunities for grieving children and families to heal by being able to talk about their suicide loss.  Further, it’s my hope that we can work together as a community and nation to promote a culture of openness and acceptance so that people who are struggling with thoughts of suicide feel safe enough to tell someone else who can help keep them alive.
We have experienced so much tragedy in the last two years in our Colorado communities.  Here is a chance for us to provide hope.
Reporting “died by suicide” will be leading the way in an era where mental health is of most importance.
Thank you again, for considering my request.  If we have changed even one life by changing our language, it will be worth it.
All the best,
Renee Joyce, BA
Grief Therapist Intern
@renee_joyce on Twitter
For more information about suicide prevention call:
suicideprevention

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