The following is intended to provide general information and support regarding some of the common experiences of suicide attempt survivors. Please keep in mind that everyone’s experience is unique.
Those who have survived a suicide attempt are often referred to as “suicide attempt survivors.” We feel “survivor” is an appropriate term because it showcases the strength and courage that such an experience demands.
For a list of resources on this topic, please see Helpful Links and Resources.
If you or someone you know is currently thinking about suicide please contact the Mental Health Mobile Crisis Team at (902) 429-8167 or 1 (888) 429-8167 (Toll Free).
A Catalyst for Change
A suicide attempt can often be a traumatic experience, but it can also be a catalyst for positive change.
Keep in mind that the majority of attempt survivors do get the help and support they need and end up leading meaningful, fulfilling lives.
If you are a suicide attempt survivor, know that you are not alone. Also know that you can, and will, get through this. Find the support you need to address the underlying pain related to your suicide attempt. Know that help is available. For more information, please see Supports and Services in NS.
Everyone’s Emotional Response is Unique
The time immediately following a suicide attempt, the next few days and weeks, can be a confusing and challenging time for suicide attempt survivors and their loved ones.
Some people will feel a variety of different and overwhelming emotions and others may feel completely numb. A common response after an attempt is physical exhaustion.
Some experience happiness because they survived the suicide attempt and are now determined to find meaning in their lives and get the help they need. Some many feel anger for being alive, while others feel guilt or shame, thinking that they have let others down.
Please keep in mind that there is no ‘right way to feel’ after a suicide attempt. Your emotions and thoughts are all valid.
Remember that there is nothing inherently bad about you because you attempted suicide. You have been in a considerable amount of pain and were looking to find relief.
Know however, that there are other ways to overcome the pain. Support is available.
After a suicide attempt, survivors are often unsure of where to turn or what to say to others. As a result, they may feel isolated and alone.
It can be challenging to tell others about a suicide attempt because suicide is a topic of taboo in our society. You might be concerned about how people will react or what they might think of you.
It is important for you to decide the right time to tell others, as well as who you should tell, regarding your suicide attempt. That being said, survivors often feel a sense of relief when disclosing their attempt to loved ones.
Reaching Out is Critical
Remember that it is critical to reach out. You need support from others now more than ever. Try to think of one or two people that you can fully trust and be honest with, whom you can reach out to. Also consider connecting with a community resource (e.g., mental health services) for ongoing support.
For more information on telling others about your suicide attempt visit Coming Out from The What Happens Now? project.
A Chance to Address Underlying Pain
Reaching out to others and talking about your experience is an important step in healing. Another important step is seeking help to address the underlying pain.
As mentioned above, a suicide attempt is a traumatic experience but it can also be a catalyst for change. This can be a chance to get help, recover, and find meaning in your life.
Perhaps you have been feeling this way for so long that you cannot even imagine a different reality. Please know that the way you are feeling now can change.
Hearing stories of people that have survived a suicide attempt and found meaning in their lives can be a helpful part of the healing process. Initiatives like What Happens Next? and Live Through This can be helpful resources.
Please see Supports and Services in NS for mental health resources in NS.
Please see Helpful Links & Resources for more resources on Suicide Attempt Survivors.
Supporting a Suicide Attempt Survivor
The following section provides general information for someone supporting a suicide attempt survivor. Please see the links below for more comprehensive guides.
If your loved one has attempted suicide, know that you are not alone. There are people all around the world currently supporting a suicide attempt survivor. This is likely a shocking, traumatic, and painful experience for you.
It is common to feel many different emotions. You might be angry at the person who has made the attempt. You may feel betrayed, anxious, powerlessness, or guilty. Remember that no two people will have exactly the same experience and allow yourself to feel whatever emotion you are experiencing.
Simply Listen and Be By Their Side
One of the best things you can do to support someone who has attempted suicide is to be there to listen. Let him or her do the majority of the talking.
Often those who have attempted suicide simply want someone with whom they can confide in; who will let them explore their thoughts and emotions freely.
Suicide attempt survivors are often nervous to open up to others about their suicide attempt, because they fear the reaction. Remember to stay calm when talking with a suicide attempt survivor about their experience. It takes a great deal of strength for a survivor to reach out.
Offer Support and Encourage Help Seeking
Someone who has attempted to end his or her life is trying to end distress and pain. Often, suicide is more about ending the pain rather than ending life.
Take concerns seriously and be gentle in supporting the person in getting help. If you feel able, offer to be a safe place to turn to if they need to de-stress or find general support.
If you are unable to act as a person’s safe place, that is ok. Help connect him or her to another resource in the community, for example a counsellor, pastor, or a trusted family member. It is important to encourage that they seek ongoing help from a professional resource (e.g., mental health services).
Another way to support a suicide attempt survivor is to familiarize yourself with local resources, so that you can encourage appropriate help when it is needed.
Equip yourself with knowledge, such as the common warning signs for suicide, and keep in mind that suicide attempt survivors may consider suicide again.
Continuously remind them that they are not alone and that you love them.
The following are resources for families of attempt survivors (or for anyone of close affiliation) that may be helpful:
- The family section of the What Happens Next website, a project of the American Association of Suicidology
- After A Suicide Attempt: A Guide for Families and Friends, produced by the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention and the Klinic Community Health Centre
- After An Attempt: The Emotional Impact of a Suicide Attempt on Families, produced by Feeling Blue Suicide Prevention Counsel
- Toolkit for people who have been impacted by a suicide attempt (Mental Health Commission of Canada)
Suicide and Stigma. Centre for Suicide Prevention.
After A Suicide Attempt: A Guide for Families and Friends. CASP & Klinic Community Health Centre.
After An Attempt: The Emotional Impact of a Suicide Attempt on Families. Feeling Blue Suicide Prevention Counsel.