Educational needs

Taking care of yourself at events

Attending a suicide prevention event or activity, be that a conference, a workshop or public awareness event, can present a whole range of emotions for people with a lived experience of suicide.

Tips for a positive experience…

Think about what you hope to take away from attending – what are your expectations? Are they realistic?

  • Create or revisit your ‘self-care plan’ before you arrive;
    • Who are people you can talk to at the event?
    • Who can you call during the event or at the end of a day?
    • Is there somewhere close by to the event where you can take time out when you feel like some breathing space?
    • Plan something that gives you pleasure, calms you for the end of each day.
  • Remember that your lived experience is just as valued and important as anyone else’s
  • Be curious – about conversations you have, presentations you hear, emotions you feel. Being curious can sometimes create space between your emotion and what may be causing it. It can help us be mindful and choose how we react and feel.
  • Give yourself permission, to take time out for you, any point
  • Its absolutely okay to walk out of a room, away from a conversation that is not helpful for you, or is making you feel emotions that are uncomfortable.
  • It’s okay not to attend every session – choose what sessions you go to carefully, and plan ‘you’ time when you simply sit in the sun, relax in the breakout room
  • Be flexible and allow yourself to change your mind or plans depending on how you are feeling.
  • Make use of the support being offered at the event – counsellors, peers, mindfulness activities

How can I politely let people know that a conversation is not good for me?

“I recognise that this is a really useful conversation for you, but at this moment it’s not great for me, so with all respect I’m going to step away”

“I’m not comfortable answering that question”

“Some parts of my story are very private to me and I have chosen not to share those aspects”

“Every lived experience is so valuable – my experience was different to that, and that’s okay that we have different perceptions”

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Talking about Suicide – A Guide to Language

It is widely accepted that the inappropriate use of language when describing suicide and discussion of method, can have a significant impact on people who have a lived experience of suicide, and other members of the community. It is often attributed to fuelling the stigma, prejudice and fear that we still experience surrounding suicide. This in turn can prevent people from seeking help, and indeed reaching out to help others too.

For this reason, we must ensure that when talking about suicide we do not describe ‘how’ someone took their life, nor do we discuss specific details about a suicide attempt.

The following guide below outlines alternative language:

Do say Don’t say Why?
‘non-fatal’ or ‘made an attempt on his/her life’ ‘unsuccessful suicide To avoid presenting suicide as a desired outcome or glamourising a suicide attempt.
‘took their own life’, ‘died by suicide’ or ‘ended their own life’ ‘successful suicide To avoid presenting suicide as a desired outcome.
‘died by suicide’ or ‘ended his/ her own life ‘committed’ or ‘commit suicide To avoid association between

suicide and ‘crime’ or ‘sin’ that may alienate some people.

‘concerning rates of suicide suicide epidemic’ To avoid sensationalism and inaccuracy.
A person is ‘living with’ or ‘has a diagnosis of’ mental illness ‘mental patient’, ‘nutter’, ‘lunatic’, ‘psycho’, ‘schizo’, ‘deranged’, ‘mad’ Certain language sensationalises mental illness and reinforces stigma.
A person is ‘being treated for’ or ‘someone with’ a mental illness ‘victim’, ‘suffering from’, or ‘affected with’ a mental illness Terminology that suggests a lack of quality of life for people with mental illness.
A person has a ‘diagnosis of’ or ‘is being treated for’ schizophrenia A person is ‘a schizophrenic’, ‘an anorexic’ Labelling a person by their mental illness.
The person’s behaviour was unusual or erratic ‘crazed’, ‘deranged’, ‘mad’, ‘psychotic’ Descriptions of behaviour that imply existence of mental illness or are inaccurate.
Antidepressants, psychiatrists or psychologists, mental

health hospital

‘happy pills’, ‘shrinks’, ‘mental institution’ Colloquialisms about treatment can undermine people’s willingness to seek help.
Reword any sentence that uses psychiatric or media terminology incorrectly or out of context ‘psychotic dog’, using ‘schizophrenic’ to denote duality such as ‘schizophrenic economy’ Terminology used out of context adds to misunderstanding and trivialises mental illness.

*(Table taken from: EveryMind https://everymind.org.au/mental-health/understanding-mental-health/language-and- stigma)

 

While we understand that no one intentionally uses language, phrases and conversation to bring distress to others, we do need to be very aware of the conversations we have. At every opportunity, it is important that we improve the suicide literacy of the community including the use non-stigmatising and safe language when discussing suicide.

Further guidelines regarding terminology and discussion of mental health in the media can be accessed through the MindFrame website: https://mindframe.org.au/suicide/communicating-about-suicide

Suicide and language: Why we shouldn’t use the ‘C’ word, by Susan Beaton, Dr. Peter Forster and Dr. Myf Maple. (https://www.psychology.org.au/publications/inpsych/2013/february/beaton)

 

For a more in-depth guide to discussing suicide visit Conversations Matter, a practical online resource to support and effective community discussions about suicide at www.conversationsmatter.com.au.

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