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London, Ont. Restaurant Thaifoon Won't Call Their Spice Level 'Suicide' Anymore

"There are so many people affected by mental illness."

09/11/2017 15:39 EDT | Updated 09/11/2017 17:57 EDT
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There are a lot of ways in which food can be described: Buttery. Delightful. Peppered. Oily. But suicidal? Not at one London, Ont. restaurant — at least, not anymore.

As reported by the CBC, popular Thai restaurant Thaifoon is changing its spice level descriptions after a server found himself provoked by the term while reciting it to customers at a table.

Suicide is not a spice. Suicide is a very dark experience that some of us have gone through in our lives.

"It's much more than just a word," Mark Henshaw told the publisher. "Suicide is not a spice. Suicide is a very dark experience that some of us have gone through in our lives."

It made him think of his personal experiences with suicide, and he brought his concern to owner Fouzan Beg, who immediately saw the issue and agreed.

Thaifoon

"I said, 'You're on point on that, we need to change it right away," Beg tells HuffPost Canada.

He admits it isn't something he'd ever thought of when he printed the menus a few years ago — it's easy to find examples of other restaurants using the term interchangeably with a very hot spice ranking — but now recognizes that it could negatively affect someone.

"In a restaurant you come across thousands of people and you don't know what their mental state is," Beg notes. "There's so many people affected by mental illness, either themselves or their family. Everyone in the community has normalized the word suicide, but that's the wrong word to describe a level of spice."

Everyone in the community has normalized the word suicide.

Although it might sound innocuous to someone who doesn't have experience with suicide, referring so casually, and even jokingly, to such a traumatic experience does the exact opposite of helping people.

It comes up more often than you might expect, such as when people say things like this in reference to any type of stress. But as Paige Woiner, writing in Elite Daily, notes, "I was also guilty of saying things like, 'I want to kill myself' when I was stressed out simply because I didn't realize the impact of my words.

"I didn't realize what it actually was like to almost have someone you love taken away from you so quickly ... After experiencing what depression and suicide can really do to a person and a family, I realize none of my stress is worth ending my life. And it's definitely not worth joking about."

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For Beg, who plans to change the wording on his menu to "Thai fire," these simple shifts can make all the difference.

"When a diner sees that negative term, the whole dining experience is crashed. Food is such a positive thing and they shouldn't go together. I really do hope other restaurants catch on," he says.

"Words are very powerful."

Are you in a crisis? If you need help, contact your local crisis centre. If you know someone who may be having thoughts of suicide, visit suicideprevention.ca to learn how to talk about suicide with the person you're worried about.

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