Press Release: June 29, 2022

Contact: Darya Farivar, or David Carlson, 800-562-2702

Stop Blaming the Victim, Charleena Lyles Did Not Pull the Trigger

It is inaccurate and inappropriately stigmatizing to suggest that people in crisis “choose” to “die by cop.”

(Seattle, WA) – This morning proceedings resumed for the Charleena Lyles inquest hearing. The morning started with a suggestion by Seattle attorney Ted Buck that Charleena Lyles intended to die by suicide. Her father, Charles Lyles, objected to this and the hearing promptly went into recess. “We stand by Mr. Lyles and the entire Lyles family when we say that individuals experiencing a behavioral health crisis do not choose to die by suicide,” stated Darya Farivar, Disability Rights Washington Director of Public Policy, in attendance at the morning hearing.

In fact, advocates refuse to use the term “commit” to describe suicide for several reasons. The term “commit” implies that a crime has been committed, suicide is not a crime but the final cry for help. Describing suicide in this way only contributes to the great amount of stigma and shame associated with seeking help. Additionally, this term assumes agency by the individual who is in active crisis. The concept of “suicide by cop” is another assumption that the individual is affirmatively making choices that are driving the situation, and leaves any choices law enforcement are making out of the analysis.

“To put the blame of death on an individual in crisis when law enforcement were the ones who fired the shots is horribly offensive and ableist,” said David Carlson, Disability Rights Washington’s Director of Advocacy. “No one wants to be in a place of pain so deep and overwhelming that they experience suicidal ideations, this is never a choice. This is yet another devastating example of why law enforcement should not respond to behavioral health crisis calls.”

How we talk about and report on suicide can contribute to stigma and prevent individuals in pain from seeking help. We stand with survivors of suicide, those who have suicide invade their thoughts, and those who have died by suicide. Disability Rights Washington stands with Charleena Lyles and her entire family. #SayHerName

If you or a loved one need help call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or text the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

If you are looking for how to talk about suicide in ways that do not blame people in crisis you can read more at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health webpage on the topic.