Suicide is preventable. Every September we observe National Suicide Prevention Month. It is an initiative to help spread awareness and hope. One way that we can show community-wide support for this year’s suicide prevention month is to learn to safely communicate about suicide.
How we communicate about suicide makes big difference in the lives of those around us. Particularly in the modern era of “13 Reasons Why” glorification, messages and images shared about suicide may celebrate life or romanticize death. Suicide messaging may encourage or discourage hope. It is also possible to convey that mental illnesses are treatable or conversely to reinforce the inaccurate beliefs that nothing can be done.
Discussions of safe messaging regarding suicide often focus on media coverage, however, anyone who is communicating to the public should be mindful of safety and how they are portraying suicide. The Utah Suicide Prevention Coalition prepared a quick-guide for safe messaging and language used about suicide. The accompanying table provides their examples of better phrases we can use when discussing suicide.
Having safety concerns doesn’t mean we should avoid discussing suicide. Communication regarding suicide is critical. Those hearing the messages we share should learn that prevention works, that there are actions to help prevent suicide, that resilience and recovery are possible, and most importantly that help is available.
Want to learn more about safe messaging? The Utah Department of Health and Utah Suicide Prevention Coalition invite all to join a free virtual Safe Messaging Training on Friday, Sept. 25, 2020, from 10 to 11 a.m. Contact Amy Mikkelsen at email@example.com for more information or to RSVP.
For more information locally, reach out to the Life’s Worth Living Foundation, a group that holds regular support groups and community awareness events: firstname.lastname@example.org and 435-248-LIVE (5483).
You can also connect with the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness at nami.org/Get-Involved/Awareness-Events/Suicide-Prevention-Awareness-Month, as well as these state-wide and national resources:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org or you can also text TALK to 741741.
For local support, please call the UNI Crisis Line at 801-587-3000. Find additional resources at liveonutah.org.
Maren Wright Voss, ScD, is a professional practice extension assistant professor of health and wellness at the USU Extension – Tooele County Office, which is located inside the Tooele County Health Department Building, 151 N. Main, Tooele. She can be reached at 435-277-2409 and at email@example.com.