September is suicide prevention month so it has made us stop and think about the language we use when it comes to suicide.
Suicide can be an uncomfortable subject to talk about for a lot of people. It can be hard to know what to say to someone who feels suicidal or who has been bereaved by suicide. It’s important for people to talk about suicide and also to think about how to talk about suicide.
Some of the language commonly used to describe suicide comes from the past and can have a negative impact on people who feel suicidal or people who have been bereaved by suicide. Some of that language can come across as judgmental and shaming. That kind of language increases the stigma for people who have been suicidal and for their loved ones.
The stigma related to suicide may partially come from people not really understanding suicide. Sometimes, people jump to conclusions about why someone died by suicide and criticise them for their actions, without understanding the complex reasons why someone might have died in that way.
Education, awareness and generally just talking openly about suicide and mental health is changing the way suicide is thought about and responded to.
Some of the language commonly used around suicide can make it seem like suicide is the person’s fault and that they did something wrong. When you talk about suicide, try to stick to the facts instead of your opinions. Avoid words and phrases that are critical or judgmental.
If you are talking to someone who has been bereaved by suicide, or who has experienced suicidal thoughts or attempts, take your lead from them about what they are comfortable talking about. Don’t be afraid to ask what term or phrase they would use.
The phrase ‘commit suicide’ comes from a time when suicide was illegal and makes it seem as though the person committed a crime. A better phrase to use is to say that someone ‘died by suicide’ or ‘attempted suicide.’ These are factual statements that aren’t loaded with judgment or blame but again don’t be afraid to ask the person or family member what term or phrase they would like you to use.
Language around suicide, is constantly developing and changing so it’s important that we do to.