Helping a Loved One After a Suicide Attempt

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This is a guest post by Chloe Pearson who is a research specialist and freelance writer. She also volunteers at Consumer Health Labs .

One of the most difficult challenges to face as a friend or family member of a loved one who has attempted suicide is offering help and support after the attempt. It is quite common to experience a range of emotions and reactions after learning that someone you love has attempted suicide.

You may feel shock or denial or even blame yourself for the attempt, wishing you would have done more to identify the problem or prevent it. It is important to remember that the suicide attempt is not your fault. It also is important to support your loved one. If you’re unsure of how or what you should do, here are some suggestions.

Avoid Negative or Unhelpful Reactions

While you may be angry or confused about your loved one’s suicide attempt, you must keep in mind that the time following the attempt is a delicate one. You need to avoid negative or unhelpful reactions that could trigger anger or withdrawal from your loved one.

Here is a list of some things that are not helpful, that you will want to avoid:

  • Don’t say, “I know how you feel.”
  • Don’t ask, “Why didn’t you get help sooner?”
  • Avoid name calling.
  • Avoid criticizing.
  • Do not ignore the attempt.
  • Do not avoid the person.
  • Do not appear angry or offended.
  • Do not make the person feel guilty or selfish.

Understand The Person Has An Increased Suicide Risk

While only 10% of people who attempt suicide go on to complete the act successfully, 80% of people who die by suicide have made a previous attempt. This means that your loved one has an increased risk. The first six months up to a year after the attempt are critical to help the person heal and move forward in their life.   Source: Grief Speaks.

They have been ill, are now recovering and may have difficulty managing basic tasks on their own. Seek out alternative care options also, especially if they were under the care of a mental health provider at the time. The treatment they were given (take this pill, and that one, and this one…) may have worsened their condtion and contributed to the attempt.

Related post: Are Your Psych Meds Making You Sick?

Antidepressants and other psychotropic medications are proven to increase suicide ideation and active attempts, especially in those under the age of 18. There are ways to get off the meds, and find underlying causes of the physical and mental distress.

Related post: Root Causes of Depression.

Tell and Show Your Loved One You Care

While it may be difficult to talk about it is better to talk about it rather than ignore it ever happened. Letting your loved one know that you still care is critical to his or her recovery. Sit with them and let them begin the conversation or make a short, supportive statement such as, “I’m glad you’re okay.”

Understand The Attempt Resulted From Pain

People who attempt suicide do so because they are in pain and want to escape it. Afterwards the shame and guilt your loved one feels will add to their pain.

You may feel angry or confused or betrayed, but understand it was from being ill (mentally, physically or both) and not being able to temporarily cope. Their coping skills will return. You want to reinforce this message to yourself, as well as to the sufferer.

Related post: Major Depression is Hell.

Stay Connected

Stay connected after a loved one attempts suicide. It may be difficult, but try to be as supportive, loving, and understanding as possible. You need to commit to helping your loved one recover.

You also should get support for yourself and rely on your friends and family as well as medical professionals to help you through your feelings as you help your loved one recover.

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