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When language counts

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Issue: A national current affairs program used the term ‘committed suicide’ in a segment about youth suicide.

Result: StigmaWatch reached out to the presenter, highlighted the problematic language, and provided them with national media reporting guidelines for responsibly reporting suicide. The presenter apologised for using terminology which breaches national guidelines and advised that the programming team was aware of the need to reference suicide appropriately.

Why it mattered: Suicide is an important issue of community concern. Stories about suicide can provide opportunities for increased awareness and discussion about its impact. However, phrases that associate suicide with ‘crime’ or ‘sin’ can alienate certain members of the community or inadvertently contribute to suicide being presented as an option for dealing with problems. Both the Australian Press Council APC guidelines and Mindframe’s national reporting guidelines recommend using terms such as ‘died by suicide’ or ‘took their own life’ instead of ‘committed suicide’.

Last updated: 7 March 2018