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Sign petition to show support for victims and suicide survivors
09/09/2015

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) has lent its support to a new campaign to change the outdated terminology around suicide to help protect victims and vulnerable survivors while honouring their good names.

The Suffolk branch of Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SoBS) is petitioning the government to eradicate use of the phrase “committed suicide”, which originates from the criminal justice system, and replace it with the term “died by suicide”.

By doing so, the charity hopes to challenge negativity and remove a key trigger word, in turn reducing the risk of survivors – many of whom are vulnerable and may be feeling suicidal – from taking their own lives.

The campaign has been launched in the run up to world suicide prevention day, which takes place tomorrow (Thursday 10 September). It is being spearheaded by Suzy Clifford, who runs the Suffolk branch of SoBS, and has been supported by NSFT, which works with the charity to support those who have survived suicide.

“We want to break the link with this outdated, negative language, which can be used to attack both the person who has died and vulnerable survivors,” said Suzy, whose husband Len took his own life in 2009.

“My own personal experience was that I was just five weeks into my own grief when someone approached me and said ‘I've heard your husband committed suicide. He is a coward and should be ashamed of himself’. I just could not believe this was acceptable in the 21st century. If that had been a particularly dark day for me, it could have been a trigger when I was at high risk of suicide myself.

“The government did half a job in 1961 when they decriminalised suicide but didn’t change the language. I always explain it by saying that you commit murder or a burglary – you don’t commit a heart attack.

“The term has become so engrained in our language that people may not think about the implications unless they have experience themselves. The things we could achieve if the petition is a success would be amazing – changing this terminology is about honouring the person who has passed and protecting their good name and the good names of survivors. It will also play a key role in breaking the circle of stigma and shame for the next generation.”

Suicide rates in the UK have fallen from 6,595 when records began in 1981 to 6,045 in 2011. Despite this, suicide remains the single biggest cause of death for young men aged between 18 and 34, with men three times more likely to take their own lives than women.

SoBS offers indefinite support to survivors via telephone, email or face to face, as well as regular group meetings to help people develop coping strategies, relieve isolation and bring hope. The charity’s Suffolk branch has recently launched a new website – available at http://suffolk-sobs.org.uk/  – which brings together a range of information about the services it provides.

“I am proud to support SoBS in Suffolk,” said Gary Page, Chair of NSFT. “I have seen first-hand the incredible work they do supporting survivors throughout the county and beyond.

“At NSFT, we sadly encounter many survivors who are coming to terms with losing a loved one in such difficult circumstances. Signposting them to SoBS helps the organisation reach more people who need the unique support and insight which only fellow survivors can provide.

“From our work with SoBS, we know that it is incredibly important to raise awareness of the issue around suicide and help increase people’s understanding of the impact it has. We are, therefore, pleased to be able to lend our support to this campaign and would encourage others to take a few minutes to sign the petition and make a difference to survivors.”

You can sign the petition by visiting https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/106754  ​