How NOT to Talk About Suicide

Hi. My name is Jess and I have been working for SelfharmUK (which is part of a bigger young people's charity called Youthscape) for over three years now. As well as running this website, I also spend one day a week running face-to-face groups and activities with young people either in school or here in the Youthscape building in Luton.

Sadly, most of us will have some connection with someone who has died by suicide. It might be a close connection - as in a family member or friend, or a completed unrelated one - as in someone who may have been hit by a train we were on. 

"Every year close to 800,000 people globally take their own life and there are many more people who attempt suicide."

- Time To Change

Suicide is not an easy thing to get your head around, let alone talk about. Understanding why someone would attempt to take their own life is never very straightforward, and not to mention extremely upsetting and scary too. 

Despite this - we need to talk about suicide, now more than ever.

"Suicide is the biggest killer of young people in the UK"

"Over 200 school children are lost to suicide every year."

- Papyrus

As a young person, those stats probably sound really frightening! 

But you don't have to be afraid. 

There are lots of organisations out there that are working really hard in order to prevent young suicides. These include Papyrus and the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide. However, as hard as they are working, they could actually use your help too.

One of the easiest ways you could really help a friend who is struggling with suicidal thoughts or who knows someone who has taken their own life, is actually just to listen to them without judging.

If you do want to say something supportive, try not to use phrases that sound disrespectful or judgemental like "committed suicide" or "failed attempt at suicide". Instead, use phrases that sound compassionate and thoughtful like "took their life" or "attempted to end their life".

Another way you could watch the language you're using is actually by what you say every day. Saying "Kill yourself" to your friend when you disagree with something they've said is incredibly insensitive. Even saying "I can't live without [chocolate]" could also appear quite thoughtless. 

Even if you do say the wrong thing, or have done in the past - don't feel like you can't talk to someone about suicide. By saying nothing, we're not giving the people we love and care about a chance to say they need help.


Alumina is a free, online 7 week course for young people struggling with self-harm. Each course has up to 8 young people, all accessing the sessions from their own phones, tablets or laptops across the UK. The courses take place on different evenings of the week and are run by friendly, trained counsellors and volunteer youth workers. You don’t need an adult to refer you or sign you up, and no-one will see or hear you during the sessions – you’ll just join in via the chatbox. We want to help you to find your next steps towards recovery, wherever you are on your journey.

Find out more