Language and suicide

Certain language may be problematic when discussing suicide. Choosing language that reflects and empowers individual experiences, is not sensationalised, is understandable and is adapted to individual preferences or audience is recommended.

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.

‘non-fatal’ or ‘made an attempt on his/her life’‘unsuccessful suicide’ or 'failed suicide bid'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’, 'completed suicide' 'committed suicide'To avoid presenting suicide as a desired outcome.

To avoid association between suicide and ‘crime’ or ‘sin’ that may stigmatise.
'a person who attempted or died by suicide'; 'he died
by suicide'
Labelling terms associated with suicide methodsTo avoid labelling people by the method used.
‘concerning rates of suicide’‘suicide epidemic’ or 'skyrocketing rates of suicide'To avoid sensationalism and inaccuracy.
'tragic death' or 'a tragedy''set free', 'finally at peace' or 'can rest at last'To avoid presenting suicide as a desired outcome or as an option for dealing with problems.
Refrain from using the word 'suicide' out of context'political suicide'; 'suicide pass/ball' (in sports); 'suicide mission'Using the word 'suicide' out of context can trivialise the issue.
'content advice'; 'the content includes discussion of suicide''trigger warning'; 'triggered'There is conflicting evidence about the use of content advice, but if adding this advice, avoid using phrases like 'trigger' or 'trigger warning'.

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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