Centre for Suicide Prevention, along with l’Association québécoise de prévention du suicide, partnered with the Public Health Agency of Canada to create Language Matters: Safe language and messages for suicide prevention, a resource that guides people in using language “that is helpful and respectful, and encourages an environment free of stigma” to “talk more openly and safely about suicide and its prevention.”

The more we are open and safe in our communication, the more likely it is that people can offer or seek help.

Language Matters: Safe language and messages for suicide prevention, Public Health Agency of Canada

Here are some tips for using language to decrease stigma and create a safe environment for people to reach out for help:

  • Put people first: Using people-first language avoids stigmatizing words or phrases and emphasizes people while respecting differences and experiences, rather than referring to their actions, conditions, or diagnoses.
    • E.g. “people bereaved by suicide” or “people with lived experience related to suicide”
  • Use safe language: It is important that language about suicide is careful and factual. When we replace problematic language with neutral and respectful language, we help shift how society reacts to and understands suicide. We can make the conversation about suicide safer
    • E.g. “died by suicide” instead of “commit suicide”
  • Images matter too: Images need to be consistent with safe language and communication for suicide prevention. Images that convey a sense of belonging or community, a sense of hope, and healing and recovery are more consistent with safe communication. Images are most effective when they reinforce the message that no one is alone, that help is available and that everyone’s life matters.

Learn more in the resource, Language Matters: Safe language and messages for suicide prevention by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

This resource is also available in French: Choisir les bons mots: Communication sécuritaire pour la prévention du suicide.