What's in a Word?

Friday March 18, 2016

I don't need to tell you how important words are; why they're written, how they're written and how they're perceived. They bring us together and they set us apart in ways we cannot always conceive when we use them.

I'm saying this because a couple of years ago, a US programme arrived in the UK, the Zero Suicide Initiative; with the fantastic aim of developing fresh approaches to preventing suicide with multi-agency input (e.g. NHS, police, charities, those who had attempted suicide and the bereaved). It was championed by the Lib Dems in the previous government and led to pilot areas being set up around the country. It's doing some great things on minimal funds, but I have always found it hard to get past that word zero, which has coloured my view of the project.

To me it's saying that unlike cancer, heart disease or myriad other ways that eventually kill us all, suicide is one death that is 100% avoidable. But it isn't and it never will be, so why have such an unattainable aspiration that sets people up to fail? Why use language that still makes mental illness other, different, apart? Why add to the stigma and loss for those left behind? Because to my mind using the word zero does all of those things and I'm sure that wasn't the aim of the people who started the initiative.

So what to do about it? Well, have a grumble (I can tick that off the list). Ask that zero be replaced with something else. Or maybe I should just get over myself. After all, it is just a word, it got a huge amount of publicity for the initiative, and the extremely important point is that very committed professionals and volunteers are working together around the country to prevent suicide, improve quality of life and recovery rates. Take this wonderful group, survivors of suicide attempts in Devon, who have been given a voice thanks to a zero suicide initiative in the South West. They used it to craft a letter for anyone who is thinking of taking their own life. It's called A Letter of Hope.

Meanwhile for those who have a loved one suffering from suicidal desires and are struggling to know what to do, there are increasing online resources which you might find useful in the UK and beyond - I thought Metanoia, an Australian website, talked a lot of sense. Please post in the comments below if you know any others that you would recommend.

A View From the Far Side
A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.


Comments are viewable only by members. Register Now to participate in the discussion.

Already have an account? Login to leave a comment.

There are 21 comments so far.

What is Moodscope?

Moodscope members seek to support each other by sharing their experiences through this blog. If you’d like to receive these daily posts by email, just sign up to Moodscope now, completely free of charge.

Moodscope is an innovative way for people to treat their own low mood problems using an engaging online tool. Anyone in the world can accurately assess and track daily mood scores over a period of time. We have proved that the very act of measuring, tracking and sharing mood can actually lift it. Join now.

Blog Archive


Posts and comments on the Moodscope blog are the personal views of Moodscope members, they are for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice. Moodscope makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this blog or found by following any of the links.

Moodscope will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. The owner will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.