For Loved Ones, After a Suicide Attempt
Recently, a man I have come to respect and care about attempted suicide. I am grateful he is still here to tell the tale. His suicide note was online and his pain was so evident it tore at my soul.
I was tremendously relieved to hear his friends had rescued him in time to save him. But I was then left with the problem as to what to say to this man. The last thing in the world I wanted to do was make the situation any more difficult for him.
What do you do when someone you care about just attempted suicide?
Suicide is About Pain
To be clear, people who attempt suicide aren't doing it for fun, they aren't playing at death nor are they looking for death. People who attempt suicide are trying to escape a life of (literally) unbearable pain. Suicide isn't about death, it's about pain.
The Shame and Guilt of Suicide
And most people who have attempted suicide feel extremely bad about what they have done. They're ashamed they committed the act and feel guilty they have put those around them through it. Waking up after a suicide attempt is no picnic.
What to Say to Someone Who Has Attempted Suicide
So, understanding the person is already feeling bad about attempting suicide, there is no reason to make this person feel worse. You need to be supportive. You don't need to support their action, but you need to support the person. They are hurting. All they want is to know you still care about them.
What Never to Say to a Person Who Has Attempted Suicide
The worst thing you can say to someone is about how selfish they are and how much they hurt you. These people already know that. These people are already beating themselves up. The last thing they need is to feel beaten up by you too. The more they feel rejected, the more likely they are to feel alone and to try to commit suicide again. What better reason is there to leave the planet than being in agony and finding out everyone suddenly hates you?
Stay With the Person, Remind Them Who They Are
This man I know who attempted suicide isn't "the man who attempted suicide," he's a man who is brave, bold, generous and friendly. He is a man who gives to his community and a man that I respect. He is not a "suicide attempt." A suicide attempt is only a symptom of his disease. It is not who he is. I know this. And now is the time to remind him. Because, unfortunately, he may have forgotten.
People need to feel included and loved for who they are. Yes, they may need company around them to make sure they do not hurt themselves further, but they also need it to feel human again. They feel horrible about what they did. They need to know people still love them and it will be OK.
But What about My Feelings?
You, as the loved one, have every right to feel worried, hurt, betrayed and many, many other things. I would never deny you those feelings. But right after a suicide attempt is not the moment to pick to express those. Call another friend and vent and cry if you need to. Get your own support. Make sure you are OK. But it's not the moment to enter into a deep conversation with someone who has just faced death. Wait until they are stronger. And then you can both talk openly about the act's effects and your feelings. It's OK to talk about those things, but you have to pick your moment.
But above all try to remember, this person is the same person they were before they attempted suicide. They just fell victim to a very serious symptom of their disease. No more, no less.
Tracy, N. (2011, July 11). For Loved Ones, After a Suicide Attempt, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 21 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2011/07/for-loved-ones-after-a-suicide-attempt
Author: Natasha Tracy
In between all of this our 2 year old son was laying on the couch with his bottle before bed. he didn't witness anything. But after I got my husband down, I had to keep running back and forth between the two while on the phone with 911. I was shaking uncontrollably and in shock.
I still am in shock. i have no family close to me and no friends where I live. I have called the hospital to confirm he's ok. he is. i will visit tomorrow.
I try to sleep but the events keep playing over and over in my head like some surreal out of body experience. I'm going to have to seek counseling for myself, my husband and our marriage.
Moderator: This story is important but specific details of the method were removed for public safety.
I'm so sorry you're experiencing that. I can't image what that must have been like for you. You have my very best thoughts and wishes getting through this difficult time.
I just wanted to say that you said exactly the right thing: you, your husband and your marriage all need help at this point. Make sure you get that help. And remember, many people have been through this. You are not alone. Check out this resource: https://afsp.org/find-support/ive-lost-someone/
- Natasha Tracy
It’s how they DEAL WITH IT that’s different.
My beloved daughter, I couldn’t love her more than I do, is attempting suicide on a regular basis. I have to deal with this, prepare myself for the end and the devastation it will bring to not only me but her father and brothers as well.
We can’t chuck the towel in because life has thrown us a few curved balls. We will have to carry on hurting for the rest of our lives.
Yes yes yes yes yes! there is a selfishness in suicide. People so consumed with their own pain that they think they feel things differently to others, a heightened intensity of some kind.
I couldn’t feel more pain than I do at this minute in time, preparing myself for my beautiful 22 year old daughter’s death.
I am not going to kill myself when it happens, I can’t because other people love and depend on me. I will just hurt for the rest of my life and hope that God takes me sooner rather than later. The pain that her father will feel will be like a knife twisting in my heart to witness, her brothers will never enjoy life again.
Suicide is the ultimate act of selfishness, remember that all you suicidal people out there
I'm so sorry to hear you have attempted twice and that your relationship has been altered. This certainly can happen after a suicide attempt, but not all is lost. I find that the more people understand about mental illness and suicide, the better things get. While it's great that you're here reading this article, it's really your dad that needs to do that. Can you help him learn more? There are books and website dedicated to helping educate people who may not know enough about mental illness and suicide.
Also, you may want to look into counseling so that both you and your dad have a safe and understanding place to express your feelings -- no doubt, you have many things to say and so does he. A therapist can help you work these things out and fix your relationship.
Also, remember that sometimes it takes a long time for people to process such difficult events. Some people take longer than others.
- Natasha Tracy
That's a really tough situation. It's hard for all parties after a suicide attempt. I think, likely, what his dad needs is education about mental illness and suicidality.
I've written a book about bipolar disorder and it has a chapter on suicide in it. You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Lost-Marbles-Insights-Depression-Bipolar/dp/1539409147/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1524489290&sr=1-1&keywords=natasha+tracy&dpID=41Aa9BWPOML&preST=_SY291_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_&dpSrc=srch It is not associated with HealthyPlace.
If that's not a fit, then maybe do research (just like you're doing) and print off what makes the most sense for your situation and give it to his dad. His dad could also see a counselor to learn more or get in contact with a local mental health group like NAMI (just Google them) and see what resources are available there, too. There are often support groups around suicide and they can be invaluable.
And while education is critical, so is time. We don't all come to the same conclusion all at once. It hasn't been very long and he may need time to digest such tough information. I know that's not helpful to his son, but sometimes people just need time.
I hope that helps.
- Natasha Tracy
I can understand not wanting to say the wrong thing. People with a mental illness want support -- just like everyone else. You may want to read this about what you should say; https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2010/10/supporting-the-mentally-ill-best-things-to-say/
- Natasha Tracy
You have healing you need to work on as well. Unhealthy relationships can do more damage than we sometimes realize. For you to move forward with your life and have a successful and HEALTHY relationship, take a look at this last relationship and find the reasons why it was unhealthy, what you did to contribute to making it unhealthy (enabling, temper, drugs,etc.) and then work on correcting them. Get help in correcting these things so the next time you find someone that is healthy you will be ready for them. Also, the next time you meet someone who is unhealthy you will be able to identify it quickly, get out of it, and move on with your life in a healthy, happy life.
In short, get space. You need it.
- Natasha Tracy
What really scares me about how she told me this, is how calm she was. She mentioned it almost casually, as if she were admitting to cheating on a quiz. Like, she knows it's bad but she's able to talk about it with a smile. I'm so worried that her depression is really bad to the point where she's detached from the situation, or she suffers from some sort of depersonalization disorder, though I don't know what that would be called. Basically, I worry that she'll attempt again. And I hate that I don't know how to help her. I'm just going to try my best to be someone she can trust and vent to.
I definitely didn't handle her admission that well today. I almost cried but I held it in and I sort of treated it casually, I guess since she was acting like it was no big deal. I didn't want to make her uncomfortable. I just asked her how it was at the psychiatric ward. But she did have a lot to say about it so maybe I didn't totally mess up. Okay, I don't really know why I wrote this I think I just needed to vent. But if anyone has some advice for me I would very much appreciate it! (Btw, my friend and I are both younger high schoolers, for reference)
I had to resuscitate my own husband for 25 minutes before emergency medical oersonnel arrived.
The weeks that followed were the worst ever. He was on life support for 3 weeks. Initially the medical team was not going to be aggressive with treatment, but Inpushed forth, Inwas not going to give up.
The 4th onwards, he recovered remarkably.
What he said to me after one if his counsellingvsessions, still baffles AND angers me. He blames me for what HECdid, not only to himself, but to me, our kids and our family and friends. He claims thatnif I trusted him more this would not have happened. He says he did it to prove his love for me.
Yes, I am angry. I never saw the signs. In a marriage there are ips and downs. But to kill yourself, not thinking of the aftermath IS selfish, and the readon, to me, is somewhat controlling.
To cut a long story short, I am afraid to disagree with him because I am afraid it will set him off again. I am a bit distant (physically), because I am still angry that he wanted to leave me, the kds and our family. All the love I showered him with, to me, seems was not enough.
I still worry that he will attempt it again, and that I will not be around to save him. But I am also angry that he will not lusten to my reasons for not trusting him.
*Both of us were at fault for our disagreement.......he entertaining other women, me not trusting him enough not to question him.
How do I move on from here? When do I let go of the guilt, anger, and blame?
We still didn't talked about the suicide attempt and I'm afraid to ask her why she tried to kill herself. I guess what I'm trying to ask is, how do I talk to her, what advices should I give her?
Because I didn't, and the anger ate me up. I was so furious that my friend attempted suicide but I didn't want to speak to anyone because it felt like nobody wanted to listen. The only resources I could find were ways to help my friend, which is extremely important, but when you've literally been traumatized and you're trying so desperately to find someone to help you and all you can find are lists of instructions, it does make me feel so unimportant. It made me feel like nobody cared about me. I made a near suicide attempt myself because I couldn't deal with it anymore. I just couldn't deal with feeling so angry.
I'm still a little bitter over it, to be honest. I've forgiven my friend (dear god that took a long time) but I am still furious that society disregards the friends and family of people who attempt suicide as unimportant. I should not have had to end up suicidal for people to see that I was hurting. I should not have had to end up self-harming for people to see that this affected me, too.
So, please, just, talk to someone. It doesn't matter if you need to talk to them for 2 weeks, 2 months, even 2 years about how this has affected you. Get yourself a counsellor if that's what you need. Please help yourself, because I didn't do that, and I ended up paying for it. It's okay to talk about how this affects you. You're not attention-seeking, or taking the spotlight away from the suicidal person, or whatever the fuck else I've seen people implying elsewhere.
I literally can't stress this enough. It's okay to be hurt. It's okay to be angry. It's okay to feel whatever it is you feel. And it's okay to talk about it.
I'm so sorry you have someone in your life who has attempted suicide multiple times. I can't tell you what, specifically, to do as it depends on your location, but I would say that professional psychiatric help is absolutely needed and possibly inpatient care. To learn more, you might want to look at our resources and hotlines page for someone who can help. http://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-referral-resources/
- Natasha Tracy
I never had any support and I still don't. I pretend im fine, but im dying inside. Sometimes, I still wanna end it. I don't really have anyone that I trust to reach out to.
My bf.,shoot himself in fron of me ... The reason was I wanted break up with him...
He has a surgery it was 3 days ago...
I'm still don't see him... He is in trauma unit and what's will be after I don't know ... Anybody don't tell me anything... I can't understand what I feel ...
I'm in schok,I think I will never can back to my normally life... I wanna talk with him,I need him,but I can't cuz they don't let me... Eveybody telling me I have to to think about me and don't think about him anymore cuz he is sick and he will be try again but now he will try hurt me...
I don't know what I have to thinking about cuz I still love him,worry about him and I need him but at the same time I feel how I'm upset I don't feel anything even my body and I scare of everything ... This happens made me in depression ...
I wanna help him and believe he will get his treatment and he will feel better and we can to be together forever and we will try to make a family!
I was adopted at birth so I didn't know her growing up. My 1/2 sister who's a year younger was raised by her biological grandmother that died of cancer when she was a preteen. From that point on she was put in foster care. Once or twice a year she calls me usually babbling for 2 or 3 hours about the past
Yesterday I called in work sick because I was getting rundown and completely exhausted with all the rushing around for Christmas and the stress lately at work. When my sister called I told her I wasn't feeling well and would call her back. She proceeded to call me 3 more times with in the hour. I suspected she was either drunk, high or both so I let the answering machine kick in. I slept most of the day but in the eve I went out for dinner with some friends and didn't get home until late
I have bipolar and if I don't take care of myself I start to get sick again
When I got home from work today I had a message on my answering machine from my moms brothers ex wife asking me to call my sister. I was so pissed off that I deleted the message before listening to all of it
Then as I was headed out the door to go swimming with a friend I get another voicemail message from my sister swearing at me because I didn't call her back
Tomorrow is my sisters birthday and I had planned to call her but not anymore. I don't need to listen to a drunk stoner swearing at me and going on and on about the past. After 49 years it just gets old...
She seemed to blame everyone around her for her wanting to die. She ended up dragging up every little thing that's ever happened to her as a reason.
She's never told me the truth in her life, I don't trust her when she says anything to me anymore so I know I can't trust her when she says why she wanted to.
She's really hurt my mum, my dad keeps arguing with my mum now (even though my sister said that's something that hurts her). I've already been through all of this, how come I managed it without all this and she couldn't?
In the article you say survivors feel really bad about what they've done. If anything my sister seems pleased about the attention, and she's never really been one to understand anything.
I really don't know how to treat her now. I want to stay away at my boyfriends house, but mum mum wants me looking after my sister, and my dad wants me to stay away because I (apparently) can't be trusted. I "can't be trusted" for one thing my sister said was a cause; for the fact that when we were a lot younger I used to pick on her and push her around.
What am I meant to do!?
I live in India. Student suicides due to less than exemplar grades are a sad reality here. I particularly liked the what not to say part.
One of my bestfriend's neighbours killed himself recently.
I wish she'd read this earlier. Here's a post I found about dealing with suicides that might help.
Karen I think I understand why your family doesn't want to talk about your suicide attempt. Surviving family members almost always feel a sense of shame and guilt over a loved one's suicide. I believe that's why in some families, at least in mine, it's just not talked about