Words can pack a punch. Choosing nice words to give a compliment can brighten someone’s day, while negative words can incite anger or sadness.
The same is true when we discuss suicide. Many words that we have used to discuss suicide in the recent past are stigmatizing, meaning they can add a sense of blame or shame towards people who have attempted or died by suicide. This can make it difficult to talk about suicide, and it is important to talk about suicide! Over the last several years, there has been a push to change the language around suicide so we can discuss the topic without adding to the stigma.
Phrases to change, limit, or avoid:
- “Committed suicide”- have you noticed that we use phrases like “commit a sin” or “commit a crime?” While it might not be our intention, saying a person committed suicide can imply that they did something selfish or sinful and cast blame.
- “Successful suicide”- we often use the word success when we’re talking about something that is positive, such as successfully meeting a goal or running a successful business. There is nothing positive about suicide.
Phrases to use instead:
- “died by suicide”- this phrase does not add any shame or blame, but simply and clearly explains what happened.
- “completed suicide”- this phrase is also a way to simply and clearly state what happened.
Changing the words you use to talk about suicide might be difficult at first. You might accidentally slip up and use stigmatizing language instead of non-stigmatizing words. Simply correct yourself and practice using the new words. It might take a few tries to feel comfortable switching out the words you use, but it will go a long way in helping break down some of the stigma that surrounds suicide.
(If you or a loved one are experiencing a suicide crisis or other mental health crisis, call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by simply dialing 988. You can also text HELP to 741741 to reach the Crisis Textline. If you or a loved one are experiencing a mental health emergency or substance use emergency, dial 911.)