Talking about suicide safely
Language matters. Sometimes the words we use can be stigmatizing, even if we don’t mean them to be. By choosing our words carefully, we can help break down the shame and stigma that surround suicide, and encourage people to get help when they need it.
When you are talking or writing about suicide, keep it clear, factual and neutral. See the guide below for what not to say when you talk about suicide, and what you should say instead.
This phrase comes from a time in the past when suicide was considered a crime.
Using this language promotes the idea that people who attempt or die by suicide have done something wrong.
Died by suicide
Took their own life
Ended their life
Suggests that dying by suicide is succeeding — in fact, every death by suicide is a tragedy.
Survived a suicide attempt
As above, avoid any language that suggests dying by suicide is a success.
Died by suicide
Death by suicide
High-risk people/ populations
Implies that it is inevitable that people from particular groups will experience suicidality.
Someone’s identity or background does not put them at risk of suicide, but how they are treated by others can be a contributing factor.
Populations with a potentially high risk of suicide.
Populations with higher rates of suicide.
Factors that may increase someone’s risk of suicide.
Another way you can avoid adding to the stigma around suicide is by using people-first language. This respects people’s identities and experiences, rather than labelling or categorizing them.
He/she/they died by suicide
Having/experiencing suicidal thoughts/feelings
Thinking about suicide
for suicide prevention
Find out more about how to communicate about suicide in a safe and responsible way in this booklet from the Government of Canada.
Remember, it’s OK to talk
In fact, it’s important. Bringing up the subject can be scary, but it can help save lives. Find out how to talk to someone you are worried about.