Resource Category: Suicide

Suicide is death caused by injuring oneself with the intent to die. People considering suicide typically feel an overwhelming, never-ending (or continuous) sense of hopelessness, helplessness, and despair. They believe suicide is the only way to stop the suffering.

Suicide is a complex issue and should not be attributed to a single cause. Not everyone who dies by suicide has been diagnosed with a mental illness, and not all people with a mental illness seek to end their lives by suicide.

Many factors can contribute to someone’s decision to end their life, such as loss, trauma, addiction, serious illness, and other life events that feel overwhelming. Remember, it is the experience of the events (not necessarily the events themselves) that contribute to a person feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope.

The language you use makes a difference. When talking about suicide or suicide-related behaviors, stay away from “committed suicide.” Instead, use terms such as “died by suicide” or “completed suicide attempt.” It is a common, and harmful, idea that those who died by suicide “commit” something wrong, e.g., a crime, a sin, etc., against themselves. And this blame only furthers stigma. We need to recognize that suicide is a disease that drives people toward self-harm and treat them without blame or shame. By changing the way we speak about it, we can begin to eliminate the stigma and criminalization of suicidal behaviors.

Rabbi David Steinhardt of Boca Raton, Fla., confessed that he had never dealt with anything remotely comparable: in the last four months, five congregants or their close relatives have died by suicide.