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Key terms used in You are not alone

The medical world is full of terminology and language that can be hard to follow when you are supporting someone who has attempted suicide. Here are a few of those terms, with simple explanations.

If someone is at immediate risk, call 000 or visit your nearest hospital.

If someone is at immediate risk, call 000 or visit your nearest hospital.

Witnessing someone's suicide attempt, or supporting them afterwards, can be extremely distressing.

For more information on how to get support and look after yourself, see our factsheet: Traumatic events.

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The term ‘carer’ is often used in the healthcare system to describe someone who helps with a person’s daily living. We use ‘carer’ to refer to someone who provides support to, or advocates on behalf of, another person. This includes practical, emotional, social, financial, and physical care. A carer might be a friend, work colleague, partner, sibling, wife, husband, parent, or child.


Depending on the health service you use, the person you care about may be called different things. They can choose for themselves which term they prefer.

Family member or friend

Both kin and non-kin relationships can be impacted when someone attempts suicide. Almost half of the people who took part in You are not alone were not intimately related to the person they provide care for.

Self-harm or non-suicidal self-injury

These terms are used when someone harms themselves without the intent of dying.

Suicide attempt

This term is used when someone tries to take their own life. They have thoughts of wanting to die and have acted upon these thoughts.

Suicidal ideation

This term is used if someone has thoughts about wanting to take their own life or die, but has not acted upon them.

Head to Health has more information on suicidal thoughts.

Primary health care

This term describes the first contact a person has with a health system. In terms of suicide attempt, this might relate to the treatment of someone while they are in the community (GP, community mental health, etc.) rather than when they are admitted to hospital.

Person-centred care

This refers to care that focusses on the needs of person receiving the care. As a carer, your needs might not be the highest priority — they may be viewed through the lens of the person’s needs. This focus helps you identify your own needs. You can access support for yourself through your own GP or care team.


Discharge refers to the process of leaving the hospital and any subsequent plans that are developed to care for the person and their family once they’ve returned home.

Practical support needs

These include financial, household tasks and personal care requirements.

Social and emotional support needs

A person’s broader needs — desires, spiritual needs, religious needs, and the ups and downs of living with a complex mental health issue, or responding to trauma.

Peer support

The support shared between people based on shared experience and understanding, rather than professional expertise. Other terms that mean something similar are ‘consumer support’ (people who use the same services as you), or ‘people with lived experience’.

Lived experience

In Australia, and on You are not alone, we use a broad definition of lived experience to include those who are bereaved, those who have attempted, and those who have supported someone who has attempted or died by suicide.