Language Matters

The past few weeks there has been a great deal of media attention around mental health due to the #MooLetsTalk event and news that a Coroner’s inquest will be conducted following a February, 2010 death in the province.

These two events have resulted in numerous press releases, social media posts and news broadcasts. While death should not be something hidden from public discussion or conversed about with hushed tones, we need to be mindful of our language.

Discussing Suicide

Language around suicide death seems to be particularly challenging for most. By using the term “committed suicide”, we are automatically implying judgement of the act. The word commit is associated with crime. When we say that someone has died by suicide or died by their own choosing, we focus on the death and withhold judgement.

The often-used phase “Suicide is a very permanent response to temporary, yet overwhelming pain”, is also filled with judgement. It suggests that the individual who dies by suicide is over-reacting and does not acknowledge the deep pain, an individual is facing.

Simply Ask

If we are unsure of what language to use, we only need to ask. When speaking with suicide loss survivors, we need to be open and honest with how we are feeling and if we are uncomfortable, simply state so.

By using appropriate language, we are removing the stigma associated with death by suicide, offering support to suicide loss survivors, and teaching our community that such conversations are important.

We need only look to the success of the #MooLetsTalk event to see that people are willing to be part of a broader community dialogue around suicide prevention, support for suicide loss survivors, and most importantly, the need to have discussions about our mental health and wellness.

Allison & Gail Swan serve Cow’s ice cream for the 1st Annual #MooLetsTalk Day.

As we move toward the release of PEI’s suicide prevention strategy, we hope that there will be continued open and honest discussion that removes stigma and judgement.