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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.

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

  1. Ever since my brother’s suicide attempt, and I was the one to call 911 on him since both of my parents just stood there in their denial and basically egging him on antagoizing him and pretty much just making a joke out of the whole thing like “he was just crying wolf like in the past always, and not going to really do it and if he did, they certainly acted as if they DID NOT CARE ONE BIT- once calling 911 he was baker acted for only 3 days then returned home. After being home for only 2-3 weeks and on his medication they put him on while in the hospital, he completed and entirely STOPPED taking any of the medication the psychiatrist had prescribed him at the time. And now, to make matters even all the more worse, ever since he has been off of the meds prescribed for whatever the reason was he attempted suicide in front of my very eyes, while downing pills with straight vodka and asking/screaming from the top of his lungs while crying hysterically asking, “please dad, please someone just take a knife please and stab me in the heart to end this PLEASE..” -while also batting a wooden mallet against his head, asking my mother to wack him over the head with it and end his life as I watched both parents stand there in mere calmness and it was as tho they were acting like they totally did not care what he was doing, even when he said, “this is not going left un-noitced” which is when I myself called 911 who came, and used charcoal to eliminate the toxins within him in addition to SAVING HIS LIFE= WHICH I HAVE NEVER FELT SO ABANDONED FROM MY OWN 2 PARENTS ABOUT, I KNOW THEY R IN DENIAL TO THE MAX, HOWEVER; WHY NOW EVEN MY BROTHER (WHO IS THE ONE WHO ATTEMPTED SUICIDE) IS NOW JUST LYING PATHOLOGICALLY AND BEING SO INCREDIBLY DISTANT OF HOW HE WAS BEFORE HIS ATTEMPTED SUICIDE, NOT TO MENTION BEING OFF OF ALL MEDS NOW FOR A WHILE, SIMPLY BECAUSE MY PARENTS PUT A STIGMA IN OUR HEADS ALL THROUGHOUT GROWING UP UNTIL NOW, BEING YOUNG ADULTS OURSELVES, THAT NONE OF US “REALLY NEED TO BE ON ANY MEDICATIONS” AND I KNOW THEY HOLD A BAD STIGMA TOWARDS THEM, EVEN THOUGH I MYSELF, AM ON SOME FOR HAVING SEVERE ANXIETY, followed by depression usually, and, not to mention, severe PTSD=FROM CHILDHOOD, WHICH, I FIND MYSELF NOW AT THE AGE OF 33 STILL LIVING WITH THE SAME EXACT PEOPLE THAT I WAS THROUGHOUT MY CHILDHOOD- I MEAN, THE MERE RAGE OF MY FATHER OR MOTHERS VOICES CAUSE ME TO SHAKE INSIDE/&OUT, LITERALLY; AND THE FACT THAT MY OWN FATHER JUST TOTALLY DISCREDITS WHATEVER I SAY, & ACTUALLY HAD THE NERVE TO LAUGH AT THE FACT WHEN I WAS TRYING TO EXPLAIN TO HIM HOW I HAVE BEEN DIAGNOSED NUMEROUS TIMES SINCE EARLY 20’s of having PTSD, which made me feel all that more bad and lower about myself- and they already know that I have lower self esteem than I used to since everything I went though while growing up in addition to being in verbally & physically abusive relationships. Now, few months later/after “brothers suicide attempt” =the 3 of them, MOTHER, FATHER, & BROTHER ARE ACTING BEYOND STRANGE AND FULL OF ANGER TOWARDS ME AND ME ONLY…PUTTING ALL OF THE BLAME ON ME IN REGARDS TO JUST ABOUT EVERY SINGLE “PROBLEM” THEY HAVE HAD IN THE PAST OR CURRENT LIFE= WHICH JUST HEIGHTENS MY ANXIETY&PTSD AND FILLS ME WITH CONFUSION THAT I BECOME VERY DEPRESSED- NOT TO MENTION MY BROTHER DOES NOT SEEK OUT ANY HELP OR TALK THERAPY LIKE I PERSONALLY FEEL HE SHOULD BE AFTER A TRAUMATIC INCIDENT LIKE THAT; BUT INSTEAD I TRULY FEEL AND HAVE A GUT FEELING AS THO HE JUST BLAMES ME FOR CALLING 911 WHO CHOSE TO BAKER ACT HIM THAT VERY DAY/TIME, IN ORDER TO SAVE HIS LIFE! MY PARENTS NOR BROTHER NEVER EVEN THANKED ME, WHICH I AM OKAY WITH=NOT LOOKING FOR PRAISE HERE, JUST SOME UNDERSTANDING OF WTF IS GOING ON AND WHY JUST WHY THEY ARE NOW BEING VERBALLY ABUSIVE TOWARDS ME=WHICH IS NOTHING NEW, YET THEY WONDER “WHY I HAVE ALWAYS CHOSEN THOSE SCUM BAG ABUSIVE BOYFRIENDS AND RELATIONSHIPS I GOT MYSELF INTO IN THE PAST/ETC/ETC/ETC.” PLEASE, ANYONE WHO HAPPENS TO HAVE ANY SORT OF ADVICE, OPINIONS ON THIS MATTER, AND OR WOULD BE SO KIND AS TO OFFER ME ANY TYPE OF HELP (BEING THAT MY DR SUGGESTED I STAY WITH A FRIEND UNTIL I AM FINANCIALLY STABLE ENOUGH TO LIVE ON MY OWN, FOR MY OWN SAFETY PURPOSES & TO PROTECT MY OWN LIFE FOR GOODNESS SAKES=WHICH OF COURSE MY MOTHER JUST LAUGHS AT AND GETS ENRAGED THEN FULL OF RAGE BUT ONLY TOWARDS ME, WHICH ONLY PROVOKES MY PTSD, AND SHE CONTINUOUSLY SAYS TO ME, “OH JAMIE YOU JUST HAVE TO GET OVER THIS…I MEAN, SNAP YOURSELF OUT OF IT, YOU NEED TO LET THIS GO!” -EVEN ABOUT 2 WEEKS AFTER THE “INCIDENT”(MY BROTHER, WHO IS 40YRS OLD, 8 YRS OLDER THAN ME, ATTEMPTED SUICIDE)- I APPRECIATE ANY AND ALL OF YOU WHO MIGHT BE SO KIND AS TO NOT ONLY READ THIS POST, BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY OFFER ME ANY TYPE OF FEEDBACK… ANY, in regards to “what to do” from here…..

    1. Hi Jamie, I’m sorry to hear you are in this situation. It sounds very, very hard. I have to agree with your doctor — you absolutely must get out of that environment NOW. You should stay with someone until you are financially stable yourself. You should also look into therapy for yourself as you are going to need to process all that you have been through. Also, there are helplines you can call that may have further suggestions: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-referral-resources/

      In short, get space. You need it.

      – Natasha Tracy

    2. I tried to kill myself. It did not go as planned and instead of hiding in the woods where no one would find me to save me i did it at home in a locked bathroom. My husband found me and too me to er. When i was unconsciuos after finding me he was rude and saying mean things and being rough with me after he went and got the kids to see me. He trashed talked me the whole time until he dropped me off at hospital. The kids told me all this later. When i came to in the intensive care my husband walked in belittled me asked me how i feel now that i lost my husband and children and i have no place to come home to and calling me names. He left me at the hospital for days without ever once saying sorry or that he cared or that he would be there by my side. This happened in april of this year and i am currently home with family but i think about this everyday its driving me crazy and sad. What do i do? Any advice

  2. I just found out today that one of my best friends attempted suicide. She’s always had stomach issues that she’s been hospitalized for in the past, and she missed months of school earlier this year because of them. So when she suddenly stopped coming to school about two weeks ago, I figured that was what she was out for. I tried to contact her, but she didn’t have her phone while in the hospital/psychiatric ward, and I think her parents grounded her after she got out. But we finally connected and I came to her house today after school. This is where she told me the truth about what happened. She’d overdosed on pills.
    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)

  3. My husband tried to kill himself on 25 March. Luckily, 5 minutes of not hearing or seeing him p, i started to wonder where he was. Mybson went to look for him in his workdhop (behind5 the house). He came across his stepdad, [moderated] On hearing his shrieks, I went to investigate, I found myblufeless hubandvhunging. Ivwas jot about to give upbthe very best person in my lfe. I jumped into emergency mode ( [moderated] is still a mystery), how i managed to carry a 95kg dead weight is unimaginable (im petite).
    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?

  4. 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.

  5. 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?

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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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