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about suicide

Terms and Definitions

Language and Key Definitions for Describing Suicidal Behavior 

The following terminology is recommended in S.K. Goldsmith et al. (Eds.), Reducing Suicide: A National Imperative (Washington, DC: Institute of Medicine, 2002):

"Suicide: Fatal self-inflicted destructive act with explicit or inferred intent to die." 

"Suicide Attempt: A non-fatal, self-inflicted destructive act with explicit or inferred intent to die." 

"Suicidal Ideation: Thoughts of harming or killing oneself." 

"Suicidal Communication: Direct or indirect expressions of suicidal ideation or of intent to harm or kill oneself, expressed verbally or through writing, artwork, or other means." 

"Suicidality: All suicide-related behaviors and thoughts including completing or attempting suicide, suicidal ideation or communications." 

Encouraging the use of the phrase "completing suicide" instead of "committing suicide" is also recommended.  The former is more consistent with the understanding that suicide is most often the outcome of a process of debilitation.