A suicide attempt by a friend or loved one is a traumatic experience -- for both you and the suicidal person.

How to Cope With Someone Who Has Tried to Commit Suicide

by Emma Wells

Coping in the aftermath of a suicide attempt can be extremely difficult for friends and family members of a victim. People who have attempted suicide are often subject to negative stigma from their communities, who may not be sure how to treat them after the attempt. However, there are some things that friends and family members can do to support a loved one who has tried to commit suicide, and to participate in the grieving and healing process themselves.

1. Seek Mental Health Professionals and Support Groups

According to Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia, people most often commit suicide during a situation that makes them feel overwhelmed, such as emotional trauma. Many people who attempt suicide may already suffer from depression and/or drug abuse, and have feelings of hopelessness that seem impossible to deal with. An suicide attempt is often a cry for help that points toward larger issues, so it’s important to get the survivor professional help in the form of a mental health professional and/or relevant support group. There may also be a support group for family members or friends of those who have attempted suicide.

2. Make Safety a Priority at Home

If your loved one has been released from hospitalization or professional care and is living at home, it’s important to make sure that all possible triggers are removed from the home. NAMI (The Nation’s Voice on Mental Illness) writes that people who have attempted suicide once are more likely than others to die as a result of suicide. Therefore, it’s a good idea to remove all guns or other weapons from the home, and to keep only very small quantities of drugs and alcohol available in the home. Removing dangerous weapons or substances greatly reduces the chances of a successful suicide.

3. Acknowledge Feelings of Anger and Resentment

Many friends and family members of those who have attempted suicide feel anger toward their loved one over the attempt. They may feel that the loved one has been selfish in making such an attempt. Joining a support group or seeing a mental health professional is a healthy way of dealing with these feelings. Always try to understand the depth of the emotional trauma, depression, or other reasons for the suicide attempt. Take the attempt seriously, for it was a very real cry for help, and work toward forgiving your loved one so that you can both move through a healthy grieving period.

4. Educate Yourself About Mental Illness and Suicide

Social stigma about mental illness and suicide may lead loved ones to dismiss the suicide attempt as a bid for attention, or to misunderstand the realities of depression and emotional trauma. Learn as much as you can about the causes of suicide and any mental illness with which your loved one may be diagnosed. Avoid buying into negative stereotypes about depression or other causes of suicidal behavior. Your loved one can’t just “get over” depression, and he or she needs to be surrounded by understanding people who support the healing process. Reading more about suicide can help you to cope with the other person’s trauma appropriately.

About the Author

Emma Wells has been writing professionally since 2004. She is also a writing instructor, editor and former elementary school teacher. She has a Master's degree in writing and a Bachelor of Arts in English and anthropology. Her creative work has been published in several small literary magazines.

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