The topic of suicide should be approached with care and compassion. Whether we are engaging in a dialogue, talking to someone with lived experience or writing about the issue in a professional setting, being mindful of our language is not just about being politically correct. It’s about saving lives.
As our knowledge and understanding of suicide evolves, the way we talk about it must evolve as well. To help you be more conscious of your own language decisions, this guide will show you how to avoid reinforcing the stigma that prevents people from seeking help when they need it most.
While there are specific terms and phrases to avoid when speaking about suicide and mental illness, the general rules below can help you choose your words more carefully.
Choosing our words carefully is about more than avoiding stigmatizing terms. The language we use can also have a positive effect, which makes choosing the right words just as important as avoiding the wrong ones.
Together, we can change the way the world perceives and treats people facing suicide.
The unfortunate reality is that many stigmatizing phrases and ways of talking about suicide have been ingrained into our vocabulary. Even the most dedicated supporters of the mental health movement may find themselves slipping up from time to time, and that’s okay. This does not make you a bad person—it makes you human.
If you catch yourself using problematic language about suicide or mental illness, correct yourself out loud. By letting those around you know why your words were harmful, you can turn the conversation into a positive learning experience for everyone involved. If we all put in this effort, we will see a fundamental shift in the way society addresses these issues