Supporting Your Loved One
Be supportive during their crisis. Your loved one may have seen themselves as being completely alone or a burden to others.
Be empathetic to how they felt and are currently feeling. You could say something like, “I’m sorry I didn’t realize you were in such pain. I can’t imagine how bad you must have felt. Tell me what I can do to help you now. I care about you and I want to help you through this.”
Help them make an appointment with a mental health provider before leaving the hospital and encourage them to stay in counseling.
Encourage them to take care of themselves by eating healthy, getting regular sleep and exercise, and abstaining from alcohol and drugs.
Helping Them Stay Safe if Thoughts of Suicide Return
- Help them create and follow a plan for their recovery, which includes a safety plan. An example can be found on the MY3 app for Android/iPhone.
- Temporarily remove guns and other lethal items from their home or possession. You may also want to control their medications until they are out of crisis. Learn more about why this is important here.
- Be on the lookout for warning signs that they are still in crisis. Ask them directly if they are thinking about attempting suicide again and help them access crisis resources such as the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.
- If you want to learn more about suicide prevention and how to help, you can also participate in a suicide prevention training.
“The corollary, more positive, statistic, the one that is not articulated often enough, is that among all those millions who actively consider suicide, less than one in every 10 make an attempt on their own lives. And, of those, only a minority ever go on to die by suicide. This means that, in every community in the country, in every part of the world, we are living among people who have faced the worst of personal pain and doubt and have come through them to better lives…
Why is there so little in the public sphere about their trials, triumphs and truths? And what might they say if they did not need to fear judgment, scrutiny and stigma?”
“They might tell you something that I’ve heard from hundreds of survivors, that I lived myself — for many, going through struggles with suicide completely transforms their lives for the better…
…For millions out there, the experience of wanting to die, the most intensely painful moments or even years with thoughts and feelings of suicide, have been the crucible of personal transformation through which their greatest strengths and purpose were revealed. But sharing this knowledge in order to encourage others rarely happens, and when it does it has usually been in whispers.”
-Eduardo Vega, President and CEO, Dignity Recovery Action! International
Taking Care of Yourself
When someone you love attempts suicide, you may feel angry, sad, helpless and in shock, or terrified that they will attempt again. You may also experience other common reactions to traumatic events, such as re-experiencing the event through nightmares or unwanted thoughts, being on edge or jumpy, feeling grief or depression, increased substance abuse, or avoidance/numbness. You may feel guilt that you should have known about or prevented the suicide attempt. However, it is important that you do not blame yourself. You are doing the best you can. Seek support, reach out to trusted family members or friends, and take steps to care for yourself. Get therapy for yourself or the entire family and educate yourselves about suicide.
Getting Back to "Normal"
Remember that recovery from suicidal thoughts or mental health conditions can be a long-term process, often with difficulties along the way. Be patient with your loved one, but have hope that they can return to a meaningful and productive life. The best chance at long-term recovery often comes through a combination of therapy, medication, social support, and self-help.
Part of recovery means going back to work or school. You may want to inform a supervisor at work (or school counselor) of the situation and how they can make accommodations or be supportive. If your loved one had diabetes, a broken leg, or another chronic illness, how might you ask their place of work or school to accommodate them? Mental health conditions may also require some accommodations, such as time off to attend counseling or doctor appointments, or a temporary reduction in work load or shift in work responsibilities. It is important to get your loved one’s permission before sharing information about their suicide attempt, and encourage them to advocate for themselves.
For more stories of how others have recovered after a suicide attempt, see our video of lived experience. Most people who attempt suicide do not go on to die by suicide. Most go on to get support, create a life worth living, and lead meaningful lives.