For the second day in a row CBC News has been reporting about the deaths of the BC fugitives Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky, and the death by suicide of Jerry Epstein. In most of the reporting I searched for, even CBC reporting, the language used has been consistent: death by suicide.
Notice the absence of the term “committed suicide.”
Now Ryan, you say, this is semantics. What matters is these people have died, and the method was suicide.
While this is true, the language we use when discussing suicide is important. The term “committed” refers back to time when suicide was criminalized (in fact even Canadian soldiers can still be punished for self-harm). It also “pathologizes those affected.” As the linked article shows, CNN has taken notice and changed how they use this language, opting for “died by suicide.”
Imagine my surprise, than, as I’ve been watching the morning CBC news and hearing host Suhana Marchand consistently use the term “committed” suicide when referring to Epstein, McLeod and Schmegelsky.
My shock urged me to take to Twitter and tweet at Suhana and CBC to ask them to cease the language of stigmatization.
I didn’t receive a response to my Monday tweet and low and behold again today, Suhana used the same language. I’ve once again tweeted at both CBC News and Suhana, but this time included CAMH, CMHA and Silken Laumann.
Additionally I’ve called CBC in Ottawa and left a message requesting a callback. If indont received a response I’ll reach out to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, because this is an issue worth pursuing. There is no reason that a major national news broadcaster should be allowed to continue stigmatizing and using criminalizing language to refer to mental illness and suicidality.