Communicating about suicide

When communicating about suicide, unsafe or problematic language can be linked to further suicidal behaviour. However, when done safely and respectfully, communicating about suicide can have a positive effect to reduce stigma and improve an individual’s willingness to help-seek and for others to offer support.

There are many ways people communicate about suicide. It might be in conversation, on radio or media stories, on television in movies or shows, or online. It doesn’t matter what the medium is that is used when communicating about suicide, the same principles need to be considered:

  • Do no harm
  • Aim to do good

How do we talk about suicide?

Using safe and inclusive language

How suicide is described can inadvertently contribute to it being presented as glamorous or a solution to distress. For instance, suicide is sometimes presented using language that suggests it is a desired outcome (i.e. 'successful suicide' vs. 'unsuccessful suicide'). However, using phrases such as 'died by suicide', 'suicide attempt', or 'non-fatal suicide attempt' is preferred. Additionally, gratuitous use of the term 'suicide' (e.g. 'political suicide', 'suicide mission') is problematic. It is recommended to avoid using 'suicide' out of context. For more information on safe and respectful language refer to the Mindframe guidelines.

Not discussing method and location

Studies show that descriptions and images of methods and locations are associated with increased suicide rates.5 For instance, around the death of actor, Robin Williams, there was a marked increase in suicide deaths using the same means among men aged 45-64.7 It is therefore best to omit specific method and location details when communicating about suicide.

Include help-seeking pathways

Including help-seeking information when communicating about suicide encourages individuals to reach out for others to offer support. It is best to include at least two 24-hour crisis numbers (e.g. Lifeline, Beyond Blue, or the Suicide Call Back Service). It can also be helpful to provide other helplines that target groups of a similar age, gender or identity. For example, when communicating about suicide in the LGBTQIA+ community, it would be important to include QLife details. The Mindframe website provides more information on help-seeking information, including examples of help-seeking cards for different populations.

Lived experience in communication

People with lived experience of suicide provide a vital contribution to suicide prevention, offering invaluable insights to help achieve better outcomes for all. However, as evidence suggests sharing t details of suicide or suicide attempts can result in further suicidal behaviour, there are specific considerations when speaking about suicide from personal experiences.

The inclusion of the voice of people with lived experience can help improve people’s understanding of suicide, correct myths and stereotypes and reduce fear, stigma and shame. Sharing relatable experiences can also encourage people to seek support if they or someone they know is in distress. For example, an appropriately trained lived experience speaker might want to highlight the importance of early intervention and share their personal experience of suicide.

More information on sharing stories of lived experience of suicide can be found here.

Guidance available


Mindframe is a national suicide prevention program that provides comprehensive communication guidelines for safe, effective and responsible reporting, portal and communication of suicide and mental health and alcohol and other drug (AOD) concerns.

SANE StigmaWatch

SANE StigmaWatch helps ensure media safely reports on mental ill-health and suicide. Anyone can report a media item if it breaches media reporting guidelines, and StigmaWatch will provide constructive feedback.


Orygen is the world-leading organisation for youth suicide research. Their #chatsafe guidelines are a world first award winning program designed to facilitate safe online communication about suicide.

Conversations Matter

Conversations Matter is an online resource that helps support safe and effective discussions about suicide in the community. The website hosts resources for various contexts, including group discussions, communication with children, bereavement, talking to the media, communities affected by suicide, and priority populations.


R U OK? is a grassroots campaign that aims to support people in having conversations about suicide. R U OK? has everyday resources you can use to champion the message. Whether it is in your school, university, workplace or community, they have resources for priority populations and various professions.

The National Communications Charter (The Charter)

The Charter is a resource and uniting document that guides the way people in the mental health and suicide prevention sectors, government, business and community members communicate about mental health and suicide prevention. The Charter's guiding principles and messages serve as a formal commitment to working together to reduce stigma and promote help-seeking behaviour.



Dazzi, T., Gribble, R., Wessely, S., & Fear, N. T. (2014). Does asking about suicide and related behaviours induce suicidal ideation? What is the evidence?. Psychological medicine, 44(16), 3361–3363.


RANZCP. (2019). Suicide reporting in the media. Retrieved 18 February 2022, from


Pirkis, J. E., Burgess, P. M., Francis, C., Blood, R. W., & Jolley, D. J. (2006). The relationship between media reporting of suicide and actual suicide in Australia. Social science & medicine (1982), 62(11), 2874–2886.


Niederkrotenthaler, T., Fu, K. W., Yip, P. S., Fong, D. Y., Stack, S., Cheng, Q., & Pirkis, J. (2012). Changes in suicide rates following media reports on celebrity suicide: a meta-analysis. Journal of epidemiology and community health, 66(11), 1037–1042.


Niedederkrotenthaler, T., Braun, M., Pirkis, J., Till, B., Stack, S., Sinyor, M., Tran, U. S., Voracek, M., Cheng, Q., Arendt, F., Scherr, S., Yip, P., & Spittal, M. J. (2020). Association between suicide reporting in the media and suicide: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 368, m575.


Niederkrotenthaler, T., Kirchner, S., Till, B., Sinyor, M., Tran, U. S., Pirkis, J., & Spittal, M. J. (2021). Systematic review and meta-analyses of suicidal outcomes following fictional portrayals of suicide and suicide attempt in entertainment media. EClinicalMedicine, 36, 100922.


Pirkis, J., Currier, D., Too, L. S., Bryant, M., Bartlett, S., Sinyor, M., & Spittal, M. J. (2020). Suicides in Australia following media reports of the death of Robin Williams. The Australian and New Zealand journal of psychiatry, 54(1), 99–104.

In this section

Glossary of terms

Definitions of suicide prevention terms, topics and concepts used in suicide prevention.