The Phrase “Committed Suicide" is Judged as More Applicable to Suicides Depicted as Immoral


  • Sarah Piers MacEwan University
  • Rosalia Scavuzzo MacEwan University


This research investigated the endorsement of the phrases “committed suicide” and “died by suicide” in relation to different suicide storylines. One hundred and eighty-eight MacEwan University students were randomly assigned to one of four experimental conditions, with conditions differing in the fictional account of a death by suicide that was read by participants. The storylines were systematically varied regarding whether the suicide was depicted as immoral or neutral and regarding whether the suicide involved a librarian or researcher. After reading their assigned storyline, participants rated six statement-pairs in terms of which would be preferred by the family of the deceased, with statements in each pair differing only in the use of either the phrase “committed suicide” or “died by suicide”.  In a separate part of the study, participants judged whether “died by suicide” or “committed suicide” suggested that suicide is immoral and then they rated the degree to which the phrases “committed suicide” and “died by suicide” suggested immorality, wrongdoing, illegality, and sinfulness. As hypothesized, participants in the immoral suicide scenario condition endorsed the phrase “committed suicide” over “died by suicide” more than those in the neutral condition. The majority of participants selected the phrase “committed suicide” as suggesting suicide is immoral. Lastly, the phrase “committed suicide” was seen as connoting higher levels of immorality, wrongdoing, illegality, and sinfulness compared to “died by suicide.” Findings have potential implications for stigma reduction and help-seeking.

Department: Psychology

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Andrew Howell