IASP Special Interest Group - Nomenclature


This task force aspires to generate an international standardized nomenclature on all terms within the area of suicidology, inclusive of death wishes, assisted suicide and bereavement, which may render research more comparable across the globe.


  1. To increase attention on nomenclatures in the area of suicide through the international distribution of a survey on use and attitudes towards current terminologies.
  2. To produce high-level publications in the area, inclusive of volumes, booklets and articles, in addition to all other forms of diffusion (e.g., conferences, media, etc.)

Nomenclature Background:

The need for a standardized and shared labelling of suicide ideation and behaviours has for a long time been recognized. However, many previous efforts have failed to effectively provide an acceptable basis for an internationally shared agreement on the use of a given nomenclature.

The implementation of the WHO START Study – through its international participants - is once again showing a wide range of choices and habits in labelling suicide-related phenomena throughout the world. It is evident that cultural background, traditions, criminalization of suicide-related behaviours, stigma embedded to them, health system practices, and official recording procedures, all concur in creating serious obstacles to a sharable platform for labelling suicidality signs in standardized ways. Even within western countries, huge discrepancies exist in data recording, put aside the different opinions on interpretation and correct definition of each different form of suicidal (and non-suicidal) manifestations.

Apart from ‘traditional’ difficulties in defining non-fatal suicidal behaviours, urgent appears the need for uniformity in classifying ‘ideation’ (eg, death wishes, suicide ideation, transient, chronic, intense, etc). Standardizations would be very useful also in the area of ‘survivors’ of suicide (bereavement, grief, mourning, surviving, etc.), and in that of euthanasia (e.g., voluntary, involuntary, active, passive, self-euthansia, etc.) and assisted suicide.

On-going Activities:

In recent years, the Task Force Chair has helped to develop the suicide section of the WHO Mental Health Gap Action Programme for low and middle-income countries; developed materials (first draft) for the WHO “Preventing suicide: A Resource for Suicide Case Registration” (2011) and “Preventing suicide: A Resource for Non-fatal Suicidal Behaviour Case Registration” (2014). These materials are practical and include a list of variables to be included into a minimum dataset, as well as list of variables for wider investigation for all countries concerned with suicide prevention initiatives.

The Chair has also appointed a PhD student from New Caledonia (Dr. Benjamin Goodfellow, a psychiatrist) and Dr. Anna Ziliotto (an anthropologist, De Leo Fund Italy) to provide a cultural background to the choice of suicide-related terminologies from a selection of countries around the world.

Chair: Diego De Leo