How to Support a Suicide Attempt Survivor

4 Things Suicide Attempt Survivors Want You To Know

If you know someone who has suicide-related thoughts or behaviours who is at risk of suicide and you are looking for ways to offer support, here are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind.

Supporting a suicide attempt survivor can be scary. When you know that someone has been pushed to the edge before, you might wonder what’s stopping him, her or them from doing it again. The truth is, your support can play a role in steering attempt survivors down the road to healing and keeping them on the right track.

The first thing you need to remember is that these survivors have fought their way back through the darkness and, in this moment, are making the choice to live. Honour that choice by acknowledging that they want to be here and realize that what they’re doing by talking about it, is finally giving themselves permission to ask for help.

Talk openly about suicide

Suicide is NOT a bad word. It’s not gross. It’s not shameful. It is something that happens, and if you’re talking to a suicide attempt survivor, it’s something that happened to them. The importance of talking openly about suicide it is vital in supporting suicide attempt survivors. Providing an honest and welcoming space where suicide isn’t considered taboo is necessary in order for attempt survivors to comfortably share their feelings and experience. As one survivor of suicide reveals in an article on Every Feminism: “When we don’t have healthy, compassionate conversations about suicide and survival, we ultimately discourage survivors from seeking out support.

Be patient

According to former CASP board member Yvonne Bergmans, one of the most important things to remember when supporting a suicide attempt survivor is patience. Suicide attempt survivors may need different things at different times. They might want to be surrounded by people one day, yet choose to spend the next in total isolation.

Remember that they are doing the best they know how to in that very moment, and remind yourself that in the life of a suicide attempt survivor living moment to moment is a pretty big deal. Respect their decisions and check-in frequently to see if they could use a friend. Also keep an eye out for the warning signs for those at risk of suicide.

Listen to what is being said

Don’t feel as if you have to offer solutions or dissect the reason behind an attempt -that’s where professional help comes in. An attempt survivor shared with that during her most trying times, lots of people would say things like: “What do you have to be depressed about?”, to which she responded “Depression doesn’t need a reason — it just is.

Be aware that you may not fully grasp what’s going on in the mind of a suicide attempt survivor, then accept that such awareness is okay. You don’t have to understand, you just have to be there if and when they choose to open up about their experience. At that point, be sure to listen to what they’re saying and tune in as they’re telling their story.

Shut down Stigma

One of the biggest challenges faced by suicide attempt survivors is the stigma they have to face on their way to find help. Telling someone you attempted suicide is hard enough. Hearing that it was selfish to try in the first place certainly doesn’t make it easier to open up.

Survivors of suicide attempts need compassion, not judgment. They need support as they navigate their way through the abyss of stigma, shame, guilt and stereotypes that surrounds suicide. The suicide attempt survivor from Everyday Feminism wants everyone to understand that the decision to end one’s life is not one that is taken lightly and is “not indicative of a character flaw, rather of immense pain that we have carried for too long.”

So, what is the message that suicide attempt survivors need to hear?

You are worth life. You are worth living. You are worth breathing. You are worth having children. You are worth going to college. You are worth telling jokes. You are worth writing poems. You are worth your life. You have a right to live.” Learn how to talk about suicide.

Hear more about life after a suicide attempt from suicide survivors featured in this video

Brianne Moore first attempted suicide in Grade 9. By the time she was finishing Grade 12, she had attempted suicide more several more times. Today, the poised 20-year-old mental health advocate speaks to youth and others about her struggles with mental illness that began with severe anxiety attacks when she was just three. On World Suicide Prevention Day, Monday, Moore had a message for frontline workers and others gathered at Ottawa’s Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre: “It will get better.”