Letter to the Editor
Subliminal Message
Psychiatric News
Volume 36 Number 21 page 26-26

For as long as I can remember, I have always felt perturbed at the sight or sound of the terms "completed" or, worse yet, "successful" used to describe a suicide attempt resulting in death.

I do not know when, where, or from whom these tortured euphemisms originated. Can it be that deep in the collective unconscious of the human race there lurks a Kervorkianesque perception of suicide as a good thing?

When we use these terms, do we not subliminally bestow a patina of approval on the suicidal act, as if to say "congratulations on a job well done"?

I suggest that now is not too soon to clean up our own use of the language and abandon these unfortunate semantic anachronisms. Suicide, I submit, can and should be realistically viewed and referred to as the ultimate failure of human biopsychosocial adaptation to existence.

Does anyone ever speak or write of "completed homicides" or "successful murders"? Not that I am aware of, and such phrases would, I believe, be universally viewed as macabre oxymorons.

I ask that as psychiatric and medical professionals, we take the lead in bringing reality back to any reference to a suicide attempt resulting in death by describing it as "lethal" or "fatal."

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