We live in a world where words carry immense power. They shape our thoughts and feelings, nurturing empathy and understanding or breeding stigma and judgment. One of the most potent yet under-discussed areas where our choice of words plays a significant role is in conversations about suicide and loss.
Language has the capability to influence our perception and shape reality. When we deal with sensitive and complex subjects like suicide and loss, the words we use can either help foster understanding and empathy or deepen the misapprehensions and stigma attached to such topics. Using compassionate, person-first language can humanise these experiences, encouraging greater empathy and openness around them.
Stigmatising language can inflict harm, often unconsciously, contributing to a harmful culture of silence around suicide. Negative phrases like 'committed suicide', implicitly criminalise the act, increasing the guilt and shame associated with it. Instead, more compassionate, neutral phrasing like 'died by suicide' acknowledges the act without judgment, aiding in breaking down the barriers and willfully ignoring the struggles people face.
Everyone deserves to be seen as an individual first, not solely by their health condition. Person-first language is a way of speaking that emphasizes the person over their condition, such as saying 'a person who has depression' instead of 'a depressive'. This subtle shift can reduce the stigma around mental health conditions, helping people feel understood and less isolated.
When discussing suicide and loss, it’s important to avoid sensationalism or triggering language. Rather than focusing on the method or graphic details of the suicide, concentrate on the life of the person and their struggle with mental health. This approach can deter imitation and ensures that the person's life isn't reduced to their final act.
Using language that emphasizes hope, resilience, and support can contribute to a more positive and healing narrative. This isn't about minimising the reality of pain but about fostering an environment where recovery is seen as possible. Encouraging phrases like 'seeking help', 'managing symptoms', and 'experiencing recovery' can instill hope.
Open, honest discourse about suicide and loss is a powerful tool for challenging misunderstanding and stigma. This begins with active listening and empathy, recognising each person's unique experiences and emotions. Validation plays a critical role; by acknowledging the pain and struggle someone is experiencing, you reassure them that their feelings matter.
For those seeking more information or going through a challenging time, there are resources available. Many organizations provide crisis support lines, counseling services, and educational materials. By sharing these, you can foster a sense of community and help ensure that no one feels alone in their struggle.
Navigating conversations about suicide and loss can be difficult, but with careful language choices and a compassionate approach, we can contribute to a culture that prioritizes empathy and understanding over judgment and stigma.
The conversation starts with us, so let’s choose our words wisely because they have the power to change perceptions, break down stigma, and bring healing where it’s most needed. Join us in the Forest as we continue to have these conversations and raise awareness on the healing power of words.
Posted by Khwezi Mabunda