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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.

42-15664207The 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?

mp9004309241Stay 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.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter or at the Bipolar Burble, her blog.

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar Burble, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

96 thoughts on “For Loved Ones, After a Suicide Attempt”

  1. April 10th one year ago my husband, killed himself in front of me and our son. I felt for sure God would heal him, when he came home he could not even lift his head, now he’s in a wheelchair, can move right leg and arm, at first I worked with him everyday. Now I’m burned out, I’m scared and lonely, depressed and have anxiety. He doesn’t want to go to therepy, and he doesn’t want to participate in PT, he just sits around with his head covered up, doesn’t interact with the family but does with anyone that comes by. I honestly don’t know if he wants to get better, he’s not looking to the future. I’m 53 yrs lod I can’t care for him forever and I don’t want too, I want a life this was not my choice, and he didn’t act depressed he had been on FB all day talking with friends. We have never had a good marriage, it’s always been one sided his side, used too many years ago I used to talk to him, but after years of him walking off I just quit, and now we really don’t have much to say to each other. He’s always been a handful, PTSD, Anxiety, sleep disorder, violent outburst, walking on egg shells around him, I want him to be healthy I NEED him to be whole. I just want out, I had know support people when he did this and I have none now, all sites like this say, DON”T talk about what happened, tell them you love them, don’t tell them how much they hurt you, well what about those people like my husband who was always right, never at fault, I don’t want to hurt him, I think he loves me the best he can love someone, but it’s no longer enough. What do I do with him now? I’ve lost me and my hope, i’m being swallowed in misery.

    1. You find god in you and everyone. God has never left you or him. I’m dealing with a attempt suicide son. I completely understand where your at. I have no one either besides a working husband. But I’m alone all the time. I’m getting things ready for him to come here. It’s the inner pain in the person. We can only be love to them. Even when we don’t feel it. I have no plans for my son who only has clothes. But I know God the love in me will come through. If he’s with you, maybe that’s what God wants and you did want him saved. It wasn’t perfect before and isn’t now. Same with me. You can email me anytime.

  2. I almost lost my best friend, she tried to kill herself, it was a few months ago but I still can’t stop thinking, what if no one had saved her how would my life be? When my mother told she attempted suicide I didn’t know what to do, how to act or what to say. While she was in the hospital I was always crying, because I didn’t know she was in so much pain, I also felt angry because she didn’t tell me anything and I understand why she didn’t, I also have my secrets. When I went to see her in the hospital, her aunt came to be and asked me how I was, it was the first person that really cared about how I was feeling in that day and I will never forget what she said “Don’t let this destroy you” and I’m trying to, I really am but it hurts to know she was almost left me.
    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?

  3. I really can’t stress this enough: IF SOMEONE YOU KNOW ATTEMPTS SUICIDE, TALK TO SOMEONE ABOUT HOW YOU FEEL.

    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.

  4. Hi my name is Sierra and I just witnessed my boyfriend trying to attempt suicide tonight. I feel so selfish that I feel I need to reach out to people and talk about it right now because I feel he needs all of the attention and help, not me. I called suicide hotline a little bit after it happened. I talked to them and they told me I should call the cops and have him placed on a hold. I ended up calling 911 as suggested. They just took him about a half an hour ago and all I can feel is guilt. He kept said this is my fault. I tried comforting him afterwards but he didn’t want to hear anything of what I was saying. I just feel like maybe it is my fault he feels that way which I know theres something else going on that I don’t understand and I feel useless. We have a 11 month old son together and all I kept telling him was he needs to be here for his son more than anything. This is the most emotional thing I have been though and I just don’t know who to talk to. I don’t want to talk to anyone about it because I feel it would make him feel embarrassed and I don’t want to make him feel worse than he already does. Thanks for listening.

  5. What about when they have tried multiple times? Where to now? What services should I be looking for? I’m just not sure how to approach this. =

    1. Hi Brittney,

      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

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