5 Meaningful Ways To Support Someone Who Survived A Suicide Attempt

Photo: getty
5 Meaningful Ways To Support Someone Who Survived A Suicide Attempt
Editor
Health And Wellness

They need you now more than ever.

I begged to be discharged from the hospital the first time I went inpatient.

I was a Senior in high school and it was the weekend before graduation. I couldn’t miss my last week of high school before all my friends and myself went our separate ways to colleges across the country. In fact, I even argued that I would be more suicidal if I stayed.

Somehow, between my arguments and my mother’s sympathy, I was discharged after one night, under the agreement that I would seek additional support as well as medication management. 

I left the hospital Sunday morning and the very next day I was on a bus going to the beach with the rest of the seniors. 

RELATED: 6 Things To Remember If You're Struggling With Covid-19 Depression & Thoughts Of Self-Harm

In the moments before meeting up with my friends I had felt a wave of relief. I had been suicidal since I was a child when I was living with my abusive biological mother after the passing of my first adoptive parent.

It was passive then, wishing I’d disappear silently and without pain, so my torment would be no more. I hoped it would dissipate when I went into the safety of my second adoptive family's arms. 

Unfortunately, that’s not how mental illness works.

Because of my traumas I had developed what would later be known as Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and complex PTSD. This caused me to lose sense with my reality often and split into wishing I was dead. As I grew older wishing turned into actions. I became self-injurious and started to plan an actual attempt. 

I felt like I didn’t need to live in a secret anymore. For a moment, I was free. 

When I told my closest friend she rolled her eyes and claimed it’s always about me. She accused me of lying, trying to take the attention of other people. 

Years later I would be hospitalized again after a psychotic episode that was a result of an attempted overdose, this time for a week. Again, I craved the safety of my friends upon my release and was only met with closed ears. No one seemed comfortable enough to talk about the fact that my mental illness was real and I was very sick. 

It is something I have experienced time and time again as a multiple suicide attempt survivor.

No one knows the appropriate way to approach someone who has attempted suicide. 

Is it the fear of triggering an already delicate person? 

Or is it that the taboo of severe mental illness is so prevalent that we are disconnected from compassion?

There are many different ways that I would find to be helpful to be approached after a suicide attempt, although I am in recovery now with my BPD and haven’t felt a self-injurious urge in almost a year. It may not sound like much, but for me, that’s the longest in my whole life that I haven’t felt a desire to not exist.

RELATED: I Tried To Kill Myself When I Was 7 Because Of My Antidepressants

Here are a few ways you can support a loved one after a suicide attempt. 

1. Treat it like any other illness

Buy a card, a bouquet of bright flowers, a get well soon balloon. Visit your friend in the hospital if they’ve been admitted. They don’t need to be in isolation. Mental illness is just as real as physical illness and it dismisses the stigma to approach it as such.

2. Approach with compassion and care

If your friend was in a car accident their hospital room would be flooded with gifts and well wishes; someone who survives a suicide attempt, a lifetime trauma, deserves just as much love.

Don’t come from a place of judgment and tell them why you can’t imagine why they did what they did; quite frankly, they might not even be so sure without the help of a professional to process everything going on in their head. Treat this with kindness and care, not criticism. Trust me, they’re already their own worst critic. 

3. Ask how you ​can help

Your loved one may need to be going to regular group therapy, might have to adjust to new medications, or have trouble adapting to a regular routine. Ask them if you can cook a few prepared meals if they need a ride to their new appointments so they can talk to someone after.

Try to meet with them as regularly as your schedule allows you to show your support.  

4. If you are close to them, ask if they can share their safety plan

A safety plan is something professionals and their patients set up to help have a strategy for if the person becomes suicidal again. This is to avoid having a non-CIT (crisis intervention trained) officer arriving on the scene; this can cause a bigger crisis for someone in dire need.

Ask if you can know their safety plan in place so you know what to do if they are ever in crisis again. Knowledge is power and having a plan can save a life. 

5. Just listen

Especially if you’ve never experienced being suicidal, just open your ears up to your loved one and show that you’re there. Don’t give feedback, don’t offer advice (especially if you’re without a mental illness). Just let them talk and show them you’re a safe place to come to. Create trust. 

RELATED: Powerful Photos Of People Contemplating Suicide Prove Depression Has No Face

Sign Up for the YourTango Newsletter

Let's make this a regular thing!

Tea Jones is a writer covering spirituality, horoscopes, mental health, and interpersonal relationships. 

Author
Editor