I remember the first time I had to tick the box.
Have you ever had thoughts of committing suicide or hurting others?
My hand shook as I traced a faint tick in the box next to the words.
I felt as though I were admitting to a crime.
I’d never had thoughts of hurting others; but I’d had more than my fair share of suicidal thoughts. The pairing of the two together was, in retrospect incredibly stigmatising and it made me think long and hard about being honest on that form.
I’d hope that assessment forms for young people have come a long way in the last decade; but somehow, thirteen years later, we still refer to suicide in criminal terms. Inquests still require the criminal standard of proof before ruling a cause of death as suicide. The subject is shrouded in secrecy and couched in criminal language leaving people feeling ashamed simply because of their feelings.
Words matter. The names we give things matter – its been seen throughout history that the way we speak about things influences, and is influenced by the way we perceive them.
Proverbs 18:21 proclaims “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”
And never is this proverb truer than when speaking of suicide.
The way we use our words can bring death, or life. They can impart encouragement and hope – or they can rule condemnation and shame.
Instead of “committed suicide” use “died by suicide”.
Instead of “failed suicide attempt” use “survived a suicide attempt”.
Our language matters; as it written earlier in Proverbs
Proverbs 12:18 “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
The way we speak can bring healing and hope; they can point to the ultimate hope and comfort found in Jesus through His bride, the church.
This World Suicide Prevention Day, lets speak wise words that bring healing.