Language Matters, Words Matter

Language Matters, Words Matter

*Warning Sensitive Content*

“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world” Robin Williams 1951-2014

Today marks four years since Robin Williams took his own life.  That week, or more precisely that particular day, August 11, 2014 my illness became very real to me.  It had been four months since I had begun struggling with Depression and at the exact moment when I heard the news of his death I was alone in my car, no one knowing my whereabouts, contemplating suicide.  It wasn’t the first time in that first four months that I had come close to acting upon my urges and it certainly hasn’t been the last; but it was the first time that I truly understood the seriousness of my illness.

Whenever there is a reported suicide of a famous person like Robin Williams something called the “Celebrity Suicide Effect” occurs and there is a noted rise in copycat suicides that happen following such tragedies.  That night as I sat alone in my car, scared and visibly shaken, I got caught up in the moment of it all as I began reading the headlines.  He was someone who I had admired since I was a young child, he was someone who made me laugh and he had just done the unthinkable, he had taken his life, which only left me wondering why not me too.

As I calmed myself down enough to eventually return home later that night, my attention diverted to what Robin Williams must have been thinking and feeling in the moments prior to his death and now in the aftermath, what his family and friends must be thinking and feeling too.  The headlines that night and the days and weeks that followed were oftentimes cruel, insensitive and full of judgment as the frequently, very avoided and much whispered about topic of suicide was in the forefront of everyone’s minds.

Since Robin Williams death four years ago there have been countless other celebrity suicides in the headlines, and I do mean countless.  And although there have been great strides forward in trying to end the stigma attached to Mental Illness and suicide since then, some things seem to never change.  The headlines continue to use inappropriate language when describing their death as something criminal when all you see in big bold letters next to their name is…”Committed Suicide”.

When individuals like myself who live with daily ideations of suicide or for someone who has lost a loved one to suicide it is essential to keep in mind that our language or more importantly our words matter.  The word “committed” when attached to the word suicide implies wrongdoing or sin and only makes it more difficult for those suffering with thoughts of suicide or for those who may have been left behind from a loved one’s suicide to want to just bury their heads in the sand with shame.  This of course accomplishes absolutely nothing and only keeps society as a whole from accepting that Mental Illness is a very real, often lonely and sometimes deadly disease.

An important step forward for society right now as a whole is to try and understand that our choice of words and language are imperative when talking about Mental illness and suicide.  A person who has unceasing suicidal ideations or dies by suicide have more than likely been overtaken by their illness and it has now consumed their ability to live.  But maybe, just maybe if we can learn to use less negative connotations surrounding Mental Illness and suicide starting with the use of more sensitive language and words, it will make room for more positive conversations, more individuals wanting to seek help and less people “taking their own lives” or “dying by suicide”.

Canadian National Suicide Hotline 1-833-456-4566

Author: Kim Fluxgold

Wife, mom of 3 beautiful children, dog lover, creative sole and children's book Author. Sharing my journey with depression and anxiety through blogging in hopes of educating and ending the stigma.

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