Language and Suicide

Certain ways of talking about suicide can alienate members of the community, sensationalise the issue or inadvertently contribute to suicide being presented as glamorous or an option for dealing with problems.

Preferred Language

People that are vulnerable to suicide, or bereaved by suicide, can be particularly impacted by language. Below is a summary of preferred language to use when communicating about suicide.

Do sayDon’t sayWhy?
‘non-fatal’ or ‘made an attempt on his/her life’‘unsuccessful suicide’To avoid presenting suicide as a desired outcome or glamourising a suicide attempt.
‘took their own life’, ‘died by suicide’ or ‘ended their own life’‘successful suicide’To avoid presenting suicide as a desired outcome.
‘died by suicide’ or ‘ended his/ her own life‘committed’ or ‘commit suicide’To avoid association between suicide and ‘crime’ or ‘sin’ that may alienate some people.
‘concerning rates of suicide’‘suicide epidemic’To avoid sensationalism and inaccuracy.

Talking about suicide

We need to ensure that we are not “too afraid” to talk about suicide as a community, while respecting and understanding the risks in certain situations.

Suicide is an important issue of community concern and needs to be discussed. However there is often confusion about what is meant by “discussing” or “talking about” suicide, and confusion about the evidence.

Everymind has developed world-first resources to support community conversations about suicide.

The online Conversations Matter resources assist communities to talk about suicide in ways that break down the stigma and increase understanding and support for those thinking about suicide, or those affected by suicide. 

These practical resources cover different types of conversations relevant for individuals, families and community groups including: 

  • Group discussions about suicide prevention
  • Telling a child about a suicide
  • When someone is thinking about suicide
  • When communities are affected by suicide
  • Those bereaved by suicide.

Find out more about the resources and get practical tips for talking about suicide.

Related program

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Mindframe National Media Initiative

Mindframe encourages the responsible, accurate and sensitive representation of mental illness and suicide in the Australian mass media by collaborating with media and various sectors that work with the media. 

Related resource

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Conversations Matter community resources

A range of practical resources relevant for individuals, families, community groups, workplaces and educational settings are available.

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