Terminology & General Information

Best Practice – activities or programs that are in keeping with the best available evidence regarding what is effective

Consumer – A person who currently receives mental health services or who received such services in the past

Culturally appropriate – the ability of an organization or program to be effective across cultures, including the ability to honor and respect the beliefs, language, interpersonal styles, and behaviors of individuals and families receiving services

Evidence-based – programs that have undergone scientific evaluation and have proven to be effective

Gatekeepers (suicide gatekeepers) – individuals trained to identify persons at risk of suicide and refer them to treatment or supporting services as appropriate; gatekeepers can be non-professionals who work with at-risk populations including administrators, coaches, home health aides, and others

Intervention – a strategy or approach that is intended to prevent an outcome or to alter the course of an existing condition (such as strengthening social support in a community)

Means – the instrument or object whereby a self-destructive act is carried out (i.e., firearm, poison, medication)

Means restriction – activities designed to reduce access or availability to means and methods of deliberate self-harm

Mental disorder – a diagnosable illness characterized by alterations in thinking, mood, or behavior (or some combination thereof) associated with distress that significantly interferes with an individual’s
cognitive, emotional or social abilities; often used interchangeably with mental illness.

Postvention – a strategy or approach that is implemented after a crisis or traumatic event has occurred.

Prevention – a strategy or approach that reduces the likelihood of risk of onset, or delays the onset of adverse health problems or reduces the harm resulting from conditions or behaviors.

Protective factors – factors that make it less likely that individuals will develop a disorder; protective factors may encompass biological, psychological or social factors in the individual, family and environment.

Risk factors – those factors that make it more likely that individuals will develop a disorder; risk factors may encompass biological, psychological or social factors in the individual, family and environment.

Safe Messaging – More than 50 research studies worldwide have found that certain types and news coverage around suicide can increase the likelihood of suicide in vulnerable individuals.  Please go to

http://www.suicidology.org/Portals/14/RecommendationsForReportingOnSuicide_swm.pdf?ver=2015-06-18-133922-470 for more information.

Self-harm – the various methods by which individuals injure themselves, such as self-laceration, self-battering, taking overdoses or exhibiting deliberate recklessness.

Stigma – an object, idea, or label associated with disgrace or reproach.

Substance abuse – a maladaptive pattern of substance use manifested by recurrent and significant adverse consequences related to repeated use; includes maladaptive use of legal substances such as
alcohol; prescription drugs such as analgesics, sedatives, tranquilizers, and stimulants; and illicit drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, inhalants, hallucinogens and heroin.

Suicidal act (also referred to as suicide attempt) – a potentially self-injurious behavior for which there is evidence that the person probably intended to kill himself or herself; a suicidal act may result in death, injuries, or no injuries.

Suicidal behavior – a spectrum of activities related to thoughts and behaviors that include suicidal thinking, suicide attempts, and completed suicide.

Suicidal ideation – self-reported thoughts of engaging in suicide-related behavior.

Suicidality – a term that encompasses suicidal thoughts, ideation, plans, suicide attempts, and completed suicide.

Suicide – death from injury, poisoning,  suffocation or other method where there is evidence that a self-inflicted act led to the person’s death.

Suicide attempt – a potentially self-injurious behavior with a nonfatal outcome, for which there is evidence that the person intended to kill himself or herself; a suicide attempt may or may not result in

Suicide attempt survivors – individuals who have survived a prior suicide attempt.

Suicide rate – A rate of 5 suicide deaths per 100,000 means that there are 5 suicides for every 100,000 of that specific population

Suicide survivors – immediate and extended family members, significant others,  acquaintances, co-workers and others who have experienced the loss of a loved one due to suicide.

Warning signs – signals that can be verbal, non-verbal or behaviors that a person uses to indicate that they are at risk of suicide

Terms to Use:
Took his/her own life
Died by suicide
Died as a result of a self-inflicted injury
Suicide death
Terms to Avoid:
Committed suicide
Successful suicide
Chose to kill him/herself
Failed attempt