What to do after an attempt by a family member.

People who attempt suicide are trying to escape a difficult life situation and experiencing unbearable pain. Most people feel extremely ashamed or guilt after they have attempted suicide. The reaction by family members can make all the difference.

After a suicide attempt, your loved one is probably feeling tremendous emotional pain and there is no reason to make them feel worse. Without supporting their actions, you can support the person by cariing about them.

Keep these things in mind:

  • They were not being selfish. Many times a person feels that everyone will be better off without them.
  • They may have felt rejected before the attempt. People need to feel loved for who they are, so being there helps reinforce that they are not alone.
  • They feel horrible about what they did. They need to know people still love them and it will not abandon them.
  • 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!

Information from the blog of Natasha Tracey, 2011.

DON’T

  • Ignore it and hope it gets better.
  • Keep it a “shameful” secret.
  • Let the person be in control of their medications. Dispense the medication yourself.
  • Hover or monitor every action, never allowing them a minute to themselves.
  • Blame the person or yourself for the attempt.
  • Think it will never happen again.
  • Making statements like, “how could you do this to me?” or “What on earth were you thinking?”

DO

  • Remove guns from the house and other forms of lethal means.
  • Get individual and family therapy.
  • Learn more about suicide and mental illness.
  • Talk with trusted friends and develop a strong support system. Do try to work through your negative feelings before talking to your loved one.
  • Ask about emotions or thoughts, such as loneliness, depression, or suicidal thoughts, to help gauge the current situation.
  • Work on a Safety Plan together.

Talking to someone after an attempt can be difficult.

Help reassure them that you care. Make statements such as, “I’m sorry you felt that way and I wish I could have helped you,” “I’m sorry I didn’t realize you were in such pain,” “I can’t imagine how bad you felt,” or “I want to help you, tell me what I can do to help you now.”

Ask them what would be helpful. Have an open dialogue asking the person how they want loved ones to assist in the recovery process. Consider having your loved one make a survival kit, of items that will help comfort them and represent safety for times when they may think about suicide again.

What about your feelings after a loved one attempts suicide?

When a loved one attempts suicide, it is traumatic and it affects everybody. You may feel all or some of the feelings listed below, or perhaps there are images you cannot get out of your head.

  • Anger

    Feeling angry is normal, but reacting with anger will not help anyone through the recovery process.

    Share your feelings with a trusted family member or friend. Seek professional help if you are not able to manage your anger or emotions.

  • Guilt

    You are not responsible for the actions of the other person. It wasn’t your fault.

    People thinking about suicide may keep it a secret. Learn the warning signs and stay connected with your loved one to help them stay safe.

    Your loved one may have a mental health disorder (a chemical imbalance in the brain). They may need professional help with their mental health.

  • Anxiety, Powerlessness, Helplessness, and Lack of Control

    You may fear that there will be another suicide attempt or even death.

    A desire to protect the person from additional life problems.

    You may be feeling like you are “walking on eggshells” not sure what to say or how to act.

  • Betrayal and Sense of Insecurity

    You may feel distrust. The person may have hid their true feelings.

    Upset the person could have died and leaving you to live life without them.

    Excerpt from “After An Attempt: the Emotional Impact of a Suicide Attempt on Families.” Feeling Blue Suicide Council. Radnor, PA.  Full article at here.