Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Commit* to change? A call to end the publication of the phrase ‘commit* suicide’

Nielsen, Emma; Padmanathan, Prianka; Knipe, Duleeka


Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement Manager: children and Young Peoples' Mental Health

Prianka Padmanathan

Duleeka Knipe


Background: Countering stigma is a fundamental facet of suicide prevention efforts. Integral to this is the promotion of accurate and sensitive language. The phrase ‘commit* suicide’ has prompted marked opposition primarily due to the connotations of immorality and illegality.
Methods: The study investigated the frequency of the use of the wordstem ‘commit’, in relation to self-harm and suicidal behaviours, in the three leading suicide-specific academic journals between 2000 and 2015.
Results: One third (34%) of articles published since the year 2000 used the word ‘commit*’ when describing an act of self-harm or suicide. Over half of these articles (57%) used the phrase on more than one occasion, with 6% using it more than 10 times in the same manuscript. The percentage of papers utilising the word ‘commit*’ has fluctuated over time, but there is a promising downward trend in the use of this phrase from 33% in 2000 to 13% in 2015 (p < 0.001).
Discussion: We advocate for the implementation of publication requirements regarding the language used when discussing suicide. Whilst we call for collective responsibility amongst academics and clinicians, editors hold a unique position in ensuring that outdated, inaccurate and stigma-laden terms are expunged from the scientific literature.


Nielsen, E., Padmanathan, P., & Knipe, D. (2016). Commit* to change? A call to end the publication of the phrase ‘commit* suicide’. Wellcome Open Research, 1,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 3, 2016
Publication Date Dec 6, 2016
Deposit Date May 18, 2017
Publicly Available Date May 18, 2017
Journal Wellcome Open Research
Electronic ISSN 2398-502X
Publisher F1000Research
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 1
Public URL
Publisher URL


4. Wellcome - Commit.pdf (613 Kb)

Copyright Statement
Copyright information regarding this work can be found at the following address:

You might also like

Downloadable Citations