Talking about suicide and mental health: Guidelines for language use

The way we communicate about suicide, mental health and wellbeing, mental health concerns, and alcohol and other drugs (AOD) can have either a positive or negative impact on a person’s life. The words we choose to use can make all the difference.

Our words matter: Guidelines for language use is a practical, research-informed, and user-friendly resource that is designed for media, researchers, service providers and other communicators. It seeks to inform, support and empower people to select and use words in ways that minimise stigma and harm and maximise diversity of representation.

Incorporating these guidelines into practice will help to educate the public, break down misinformation and promote help-seeking, and help-offering behaviour.

The Mindframe Guidelines: Our Words Matter are available to download here.

Guidance when speaking about suicide is summarised below.

What sort of help-seeking information should be included?

  • two support services that operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week
  • provide direct links to services in online content
  • include information around at least one online support service or forum
  • other service contacts where people can get information
  • include relevant information to the particular content, e.g. demographic, state or cultural diversity.

Guidelines available

The following guidelines are available from the Mindframe website:

  • Images matter: Mindframe guidelines for image use
  • Reporting suicide and mental ill-health: A Mindframe resource for media professionals
  • Mental ill-health and suicide: A Mindframe resource for stage and screen
  • Mindframe for Alcohol and Other Drugs
  • Guidelines on media reporting of severe mental illness in the context of violence and crime
  • Guidelines on reporting and portrayal of eating disorders: A Mindframe resource for communicators

Further information and supporting resources are available via the Mindframe Website.

Reporting a breach of Mindframe’s Guidelines

Mental illness and suicide are important issues for the media to cover. When reported responsibly, the media can help reduce stigma surrounding mental health issues and encourage people to seek help. However, research shows that then mental illness and suicide are reported irresponsibly, media stories can do harm.

Anyone can submit a StigmaWatch report when they see something that breaches Mindframe’s national reporting guidelines.

Updated 11 January 2024