Note: language is always evolving which means words in the table below may shift over time. It is important to continually examine the language we use related to suicide, mental health, and other experiences that still carry stigma. Language matters!

Say This

Instead of This


Died by/of Suicide or

Took their own life or

Killed themselves

Committed Suicide or

Completed Suicide or

Successful Suicide

Implies crime, wrongdoing, sin

Completing something and success are typically good- Not for suicide!

Survived a Suicide Attempt or

Non-fatal Suicide Attempt

Unsuccessful Suicide or

Failed Suicide Attempt

Unsuccessful and failed imply bad outcomes-

Again, not for suicide!

Do not want to imply failure or lack of success to a person who survives their suicide attempt

Suicide Attempt Survivor

Suicide Survivor

Clarifies that the person survived their suicide attempt

Suicide Loss Survivor

Suicide Survivor

Clarifies that the person survives the loss of a loved one to death by suicide




Download "Language Matters" PDF ( >>

To prevent suicide, we need to be able to talk it openly—without fear or shame. But how we talk about suicide matters. These conversations can be helpful or harmful.

Suicide-related messages must be conveyed in ways that support safety, help-seeking, and healing. Towards this goal, the Action Alliance leads efforts focusing on three key groups: the news media, the entertainment media, and other organizations that regularly disseminate messages related to suicide.

Download "Language Matters" PDF ( >>

Download "Language Matters" PDF (UW-Madison) >>

Download "Let's Talk About Suicide" (UW-Madison) >>

Val Donovan, Suicide Prevention Coordinator with UW-Madison's University Health Services, developed these resources to provide helpful information to any members of the UW campus community who lead discussions about suicide or mental health issues. UHS encourages dialogue about mental health on campus and wants to help support these conversations so they may happen in safe, effective ways. 

Download "Acceptable Definitions/Terminology" (CDC, QPR Institute) >>

This terminology document comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Each definition includes why the terminology is acceptable or unacceptable to use.

Framework for Successful Messaging 

The Framework is a research-based resource that outlines four critical issues to consider when messaging to the public about suicide. Visit the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention Framework for Successful Messaging website for more information. 

Strategic Communication Planning

Strategic planning is key to developing effective communication materials for suicide prevention. The following five-to-six-minute webinar clips feature expert advice on developing a communication plan, understanding your audience, and evaluating your efforts. Adapted from SPRC’s Strategic Communication Workshop Series, each video has a free, downloadable worksheet to help you put these skills into practice.

Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide

Suicide is a public health issue. Media and online coverage of suicide should be informed by using best practices. Visit Reporting on Suicide for guidelines on safe and sensitive reporting. 


NEW! National Recommendations for Depicting Suicide in the Entertainment Industry

The recommendations, which were informed by both representatives from the entertainment industry and the suicide prevention field, aim to help members of the entertainment industry - content creators, scriptwriters, producers - tell more balanced and authentic stories involving suicide and suicide prevention.

Media as Partners in Suicide Prevention

The American Association of Suicidology (AAS), in partnership with The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, and Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, has released an updated, comprehensive, and evidence-based set of recommendations for media organizations and journalists who report on suicide and suicide prevention activities - Suicide Reporting Recommendations: Media As Partners in Suicide Prevention. Download the pdf here.


Media Messaging Workgroup

This Action Alliance group brings together influential communication leads from our national partners to develop coordinated and consistent messages about suicide prevention. The group is dedicated to ensuring that the suicide prevention field coordinates its efforts to ensure that all messages:

  • Are developed and delivered in a coordinated, consistent, and timely way
  • Help promote hope and help-seeking (and are aligned with the Framework for Successful Messaging)
  • Educate the public about available services, resources, and supports