The Power of Words

Words are powerful whether spoken or in print. Hearing “I love you” or “Watch Out!” can elicit a response. So can “you are so thoughtless”. We can be moved by a beautiful poem or a well written story. The expression – watch what you say- is true. We need to be mindful about the words we use to describe ourselves, others and events. Our words can generate pictures, meaning, and emotion in others. This is why there are recommendations about safe messaging when a suicide occurs. There are many helpful links and resources for the media, schools, workplaces and others to reference.

Safe and Effective Messaging and Reporting – from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center

How we communicate about suicide-both in the media and in prevention messages – makes a difference. Messages and images about suicide can:

Encourage hope or discourage people from seeking help

Celebrate life or romanticize death

Help people understand that suicide is preventable and mental illnesses are treatable or reinforce inaccurate beliefs that nothing can be done about these problems

Reporting on Suicide

The news media should report on suicide in a way that is accurate and doesn’t negatively impact people at risk. Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide website –reportingonsuicide.org

Developing Suicide Prevention Messages

The National Action Alliance Framework for Successful Messaging website suicidepreventionmessaging.org/ can help people working in suicide prevention and mental health promotion ensure that all of their messages about suicide are strategic, safe, positive, and make use of relevant guidelines and best practices. This web site and the Suicide Prevention Resource Center have many resources and references such as:

Framework for successful messaging: Guidelines topic list This directory includes communications resources for specific goals, channels, audiences, and contexts (e.g., postvention, schools).

Recommendations for reporting on suicide This website provides research-based recommendations for reporting on suicide.

Recommendations for reporting on suicide (Spanish, German, and French). This two-page fact sheet, available in Spanish, German, and French, provides research-based recommendations for reporting on suicide.

Social media guidelines for mental health promotion and suicide prevention. This brief provides tips on how to communicate about mental health and suicide on social media sites.

Suicide and the news and information media: A critical review. This literature review examines whether portrayals of suicide in the media can lead to imitation.

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