Language and Suicide

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

Preferred language

People who 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 say Don’t say Why?
‘non-fatal’ or ‘made an attempt on his/her life’ ‘unsuccessful suicide’ To avoid presenting suicide as a desired outcome or glamorizing 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 confusion about the evidence.

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