Often people report that they find it difficult to support someone who has attempted suicide because they feel they don’t know what to say. It can be hard to find the right words when you’re feeling overwhelmed and emotional yourself. Create a ‘safe space,’ where the person feels loved, cared about, accepted, supported and understood. Letting the person know you support them, and asking open-ended questions, can help to open the lines of communication.
The Following Suggestions May Serve as Prompts:
- I’m sorry you’ve been feeling so awful. I’m so glad you’re still here
- I’m here for you. Remember that you can always talk to me if you need to
- I want to help you. Tell me what I can do to support you
How To Support Someone Who Has Attempted Suicide
- Be available and let the person know you will listen. It is vital to create a 'safe space' for the person to talk – this helps to build or re-establish trust between you and the person you are concerned about
- Try to understand the feelings and perspective of the person before exploring solutions together
- It may be advisable to remove possible means to suicide, including drugs and alcohol, to keep the person safe
- Support the person in exploring and developing realistic plans and solutions to deal with their emotional pain. In order to let go of suicide as a solution, they will need to see real changes in their life. It is usually a case of making small steps in the beginning, as the person's difficulties haven't been created overnight
- It is important for the suicidal person to assume as much responsibility as possible for their own welfare as they are capable of at that time. This might be difficult for you to consider, as you might not feel able to trust your loved one at the moment
- Enlist the help of others and make sure you get family and friends to assist you to support the person
- Remember that you do not have to fill the role of counsellor, psychiatrist or doctor yourself. Encourage your loved one to utilize the professional supports available to them
- Consider assisting the person to write a safety plan that will detail the steps they need to take to keep themselves safe if they feel suicidal. Having a concrete plan in place may help both of you feel more prepared and in control about the possibility of future suicidal thoughts
Telling Other People About The Suicide Attempt
Unfortunately, there is still a degree of stigma surrounding suicide. This may make it difficult to talk about your loved one’s suicide attempt, as you may fear that you or they will be judged or criticized.
It is important to remember that it is up to you who you choose to tell about the situation, and how much you reveal to them. You may find it helpful to prepare something to say when asked about the suicide attempt, such as a simple: ‘yes, it’s a difficult time for us, but we’re getting him/her the support he/she needs.’ Speaking to people who have also been in similar situations, such as through a carers’ support group, may offer you a source of non-judgemental support and understanding.
Looking After Yourself
Supporting someone who has attempted suicide can be emotionally draining, stressful and exhausting. It is impossible to watch over someone 24/7. It is vital that you look after yourself and get the support you need.
This is not something you need to deal with alone. Ensure you have adequate support systems in place yourself. Identify trusted family members or friends that you can talk to, or join a local support group. If you are finding it difficult to deal with the strain of the situation, you may also wish to consider counseling or other professional support for yourself.
Source: Suicideline AU