Language when talking about suicide

People affected by suicide are vulnerable and can fear the reaction of others. We need to talk more about suicide and make sure we talk about it in a way that is helpful and healthy.

The language people use to talk about suicide is from a different time. The word ‘commit’ comes from a time when suicide was treated as a crime. As we learn more about suicide, our language has evolved. We are trying to learn more about people who think about or attempt suicide, and to be compassionate and thoughtful when we talk about it.

The more we can use language that accurately and sensitively describes suicide, the more we encourage a healthy and respectful way to talk about suicide. 

“Suicide is no longer a crime, and so we should stop saying that people commit suicide. We now live in a world where we seek to understand people who experience suicidal thoughts, behaviours and attempts, and then to treat them with compassion rather than condemn them. Part of this is to use appropriate, non-stigmatising terminology when referring to suicide.”

– Susan Beaton, Suicide Prevention Advisor, beyondblue

How to talk about suicide

Avoid stigmatising terminology

  • Committed suicide
  • Successful suicide
  • Completed suicide
  • Failed attempt at suicide
  • Unsuccessful suicide

Use appropriate terminology

  • Died by suicide
  • Suicided
  • Ended his/her life
  • Took his/her life
  • Attempt to end his/her life

Read more in the journal article Suicide and language: Why we shouldn’t use the ‘C’ word

Crisis support

If you are in an emergency, or at immediate risk of harm to yourself or others, please contact emergency services on 000. Other services include: