Skip to content

Language use and suicide: An online cross-sectional survey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0217473
Number of pages15
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume14
Issue number6
DOIs
DateAccepted/In press - 12 May 2019
DatePublished (current) - 13 Jun 2019

Abstract

Background: There has been a recent focus on language use in relation to suicide, with concerns raised about the potential to cause distress, perpetuate stigma and discourage help-seeking. While some terms are promoted as more sensitive than others, empirical research exploring the views of people affected by suicide to inform academic and media guidelines is lacking.

Methods: An anonymous, cross-sectional online survey was promoted opportunistically via online channels. Participation was requested from adults affected by suicide. Participants were asked to rate descriptors pertaining to suicidal behaviour according to perceived acceptability. A descriptive analysis of quantitative data was conducted alongside thematic content analysis of free-text data.

Outcomes: There were 2,719 responses, of which 1,679 (61·8%) were complete. Of phrases describing non-fatal suicidal behaviour, “attempted suicide” had the highest median acceptability score. Of phrases describing fatal suicidal behaviour, “took their own life” and “died by suicide” had the highest median acceptability scores. The scores for “commit suicide” were most variable and spanned the range of acceptability scores. Free text data illustrated the nuances in decision-making.
Interpretation: Variation in opinion exists amongst people affected by suicide regarding most phrases, often depending on contextual factors. “Attempted suicide”, “took their own life”, “died by suicide” and “ended their life” were however considered most acceptable. We argue that academic and media guidelines should promote use of these phrases.

Download statistics

No data available

Documents

Documents

  • Full-text PDF (final published version)

    Rights statement: This is the final published version of the article (version of record). It first appeared online via PLOS One at https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0217473 . Please refer to any applicable terms of use of the publisher.

    Final published version, 484 KB, PDF document

    Licence: CC BY

DOI

View research connections

Related faculties, schools or groups