Language and suicide

Certain language may be problematic when discussing suicide. Inaccurate language can alienate members of the community or inadvertently present suicide as glamorous or as an option for dealing with problems.

Preferred language

Below is a summary of preferred language to use when communicating about suicide. The guide also highlights phrases and language, which may be problematic, especially in perpetuating negative stereotypes.

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 glamorising 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.

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

Talking about suicide

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 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.
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