Warning: This article deals with the sensitive topic of suicide. If you (or someone you know) need support, call the toll-free, 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. You can also text HOME to 741741 for free, which offers 24/7 support from the Crisis Text Line
Check-in With Yourself
If someone you love is recovering from a suicide attempt, you may be feeling overwhelmed, unsure, confused, or a myriad of other feelings. It is important to take some time to check in with yourself and to identify your feelings before supporting someone else.
Ask yourself: How am I feeling? Is there guilt? Anger? Confusion? Heartache?
Your thoughts and feelings are important and need to be addressed. But not with the person who is recovering. If you find yourself with strong, confusing, or uncomfortable feelings, it is important to reach out to a mental health provider to work through this with their assistance. It is incredibly painful and challenging to see someone hurting in this way.
Talking About Suicide to Your Loved One
Supporting your loved one is so important. I know you care about them because you are here, reading this. You may not be sure what to say or how to support them. This can be a very challenging time for you and your loved one. Suicidal ideation is scary and can be isolating. Your loved one may have been showing warning signs of suicide, or you may have had no idea they were struggling. These thoughts and actions can be present even in those we see as “the strong friend,” “the one always smiling,” or “the life of the party.” Or from loved ones who have fallen out of touch, isolated, or seemed “really down.” Suicidal ideation comes from emotional pain or hopelessness, and this isn’t always visible to others.
It’s important to focus on the situation now, and not on what could have happened or could have been done. Don’t center the conversation on yourself. This isn’t about not doing enough or not seeing the signs. We are missing the point if we focus on what we did or did not do. This person, who we love, needs our support. Don’t judge how you show up for someone. Recognize it is challenging and sometimes uncomfortable, but your connection matters.
Facts About Suicide And Suicide Attempts
- 1 million deaths annually.
- For every death by suicide, there are 25 attempts.
- Suicide attempts are associated with 500,000 ER visits per year.
- 10th leading cause of death for all age groups.
- The most common diagnosis among those who die by suicide is Major Depressive Disorder.
Reasons Why Someone May Attempt Suicide
The pain is too great. There feels like no other option. Desperately needing help but not being able to ask for it. Symptoms of Depression or other mood disorders.
There is a difference between suicidal ideation and attempting suicide. Suicidal ideation is a term used to describe when someone is having suicidal thoughts or not wanting to exist anymore. Someone may think about suicide but not have a plan or intention to act on it. If someone shares these thoughts with you, offer support to them by offering to contact the national suicide prevention lifeline, at 988, with them.
Tips for Starting the Conversation with Someone Who Attempted Suicide
- Check-in even if it feels uncomfortable or you don’t know what to say – you don’t have to know what to say, but connecting is so important when supporting someone after an attempt
- Let them know you care about them and express that you love and support them. They may be feeling guilt and shame, and it is important to reassure them that you still love and support them.
- Identify where you are coming from -“I don’t know what to say right now, I’m just so sorry you are going through this,” “I don’t have a way to fix this, but I’m here to listen,” “I care about you, can we talk.”
- Let them know what you are going to do to support them – “I’m bringing dinner,” “Let’s go for a walk,” “Let’s watch x movie or TV show in our pj’s,” “I’m coming to do the dishes,” “I’m going to call you in an hour just to listen to how you are doing,” “let’s get a cup of tea/coffee.”
- Focus on building hope. Support them in doing things you know they find enjoyment in, a puzzle, a walk, a funny movie, a cup of tea. Offer to go out somewhere with them or to sit at home.
- Ask, “How can I help keep you safe” and support them in making a plan.
- Say the word suicide. Say the word “suicide”. Saying this word won’t increase how much they think about it or cause them to think of something they otherwise wouldn’t. It allows for honest conversation. It decreases the possible shame and guilt. It labels their experience.
- It’s okay if they are not ready to open up or talk– letting someone know you are there for them and ready when they are ready is the most important part. They may not be ready to receive your support yet, and this is okay. Let them go at their own pace.
Written by: Elizabeth Hand, LCSW
At Clarity Clinic, we have highly trained staff specializing in therapy and psychiatry services. Clarity Clinic currently offers Medication Management and Therapy Services across Illinois. To learn more about how we can support your mental health, call Clarity Clinic at (312) 815-9660 or schedule an appointment today.
Sheppard, PsyD, CGP, ABPP, AGPA-F, Tony L. “New Insights and Strategies: Crisis Safety Planning with Youth and Teens.” PESI.com,